Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 29, 2012

Vote Yes on Initiative I-502: A New Approach to Marijuana

As with all endorsements, I am adding them to the “Voter’s Guide” tab above.

I’ve written about this initiative a couple times. I’ve made the case for legalization in general, and this initiative in particular. So in this case, I’m going to keep it really simple.

In the past, legalization efforts have argued that the entire drug war has been a failure and therefore we need to simply remove the criminal penalties because that will solve the problem. This creates a whole legal mess. How do you address underage possession? What about growing your own? How does it interface with the federal government?

Vote Yes on I-502

Initiative 502 is a new approach to addressing marijuana in our community. It is a complete package. It legalizes marijuana to be sold in state-run state-licensed stores (think of our old liquor system see comment below). The marijuana will be grown on officially licensed farms with regular inspections and can only be sold to state-run stores. Adults (21+) can purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at these stores, where we would collect quite a bit of tax revenue. That revenue would go to funding schools, hospitals, and some of it would even be set aside for health programs aimed at fighting addiction in our community. All told, it is a legally-sound and completely intact system.

To address some concerns, the initiative would set tough penalties for underage marijuana possession. It would forbid personal growing and most controversially, raise the driving under the influence law for marijuana from slightly above zero to 5 ng/ml of active THC. For those of us who aren’t biological chemists, that means if you smoked, you shouldn’t drive for an hour or two.

This would not affect medical marijuana patients, as this law does not change the current law in Washington, with one small exception. They no longer have to live in constant fear of arrest because their medicine is now fully legal and the dispensaries would be well positioned to become licensed growers.

But what about the federal law issue? Aren’t the feds going to swoop in and declare the initiative illegal the moment it passes? Well . . . maybe, but it is worth trying. If we are going to change the way we deal with this issue, it has to start from the bottom up, and this is one of the best written initiatives to tackle this issue in years. The ACLU is throwing their whole might behind this issue because this is the court case they want to argue before the Supreme Court some day. For that to happen, it has to start here in Washington state.

Riley Endorses . . .

So, if you want to add 582 million dollars to the state budget each year, vote yes on I-502.

If you want to deprive violent gangs of their biggest source of income, vote yes on I-502.

If you want to free our prisons and court systems from the burden of small-time possession cases, vote yes on I-502.

If you think marijuana is a poor choice and want to fund our government from other people’s poor choices, vote yes on I-502.

If you are ready to do away with the legal grey area that is medical marijuana dispensaries and finally provide some legal footing for these businesses, vote yes on I-502.

If you want to move past the fruitless drug war and empty legalization efforts of the last decades, vote yes on I-502.

If you believe the government has no business messing in the private lives of its citizens, vote yes on I-502.

Okay, enough of that. I think you get the point. If anyone has any more questions or disagreements, please feel free to comment. Thanks!



  1. Too bad this initiative creates a two-tier system for simple possession of pot. Buy and possess your weed outside of a State-Run (huh?) outlet and you are now an illegal pot smoker, hardly the opening to freedom one might claim.
    Have pot in yer home and kids too? Sounds like trouble. Smoke it outside, or keep it locked up or maybe CPS will decide you’re endangering yer family.
    Also any MMJ user caught with their pot while in their car can and will be subject to a very unscientific and arbitrary test of their blood – whether or not impairment is suspected or established under the levels cited in the law.

    Can’t grow yer own? Why not? it’s not a crime anymore unless now the offense is to act outside the State-Tax law system. Maybe a use tax can be levied for those unwilling to drive to the Official Grass Store to buy Official Grass Product.
    This hasn’t a hope of passing but the attempt is so flawed it really doesn’t matter.

    • Not true, Rubie. It will be legal to possess up to an Ounce of marijuana, but the only legal way to by it will be at a state-run outlet. There is no two-tier. There isn’t any issue with kids anymore than having a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of Jack Daniels in your house.

      As for the car test, the test IS based in science and has had several studies showing it as a legitimate yardstick for intoxication. Sorry, but this law is a thorough and thoughtful step forward for legalization.

  2. There’s no such thing as a blood-level yardstick for intoxication since pot is easily tolerated by habitual users and especially through heavy use and its resulting lasting impact on brain chemistry.
    You can have alcohol in your home with kids around and no one would question your parenting, can you say pot users would have the same luxury? No.
    It’s illegal to grow your own pot or buy it from anyone but the State and you can be arrested for doing so – how is that not double standard?

    • If you are selling marijuana, that is still illegal unless you are licensed. Simply possessing will be legal. That is pretty clear-cut. No second status involved.

      Can I say pot users would have the same luxury? Under the law, yes. How that is carried out, I can’t predict the future but I would hope that they would follow the law.

      The issue isn’t impairment, but rather how long it takes the body to process the marijuana. The 5 ng/ml of active thc disappear after a few hours, then it is legal to drive. You are arguing that frequent users would not be impaired during those few hours. I say, is it worth arguing over? Frequent drinkers might be a little better behind the wheel after a beer than I would be, but I still don’t want them on the road.

      A really good examination of the science behind that limit can be found here:

  3. Everyone knows that the Stranger is an impartial authority on
    anything illegal or immoral. Do you have to be gay to work there?
    I would hate to think that “journalists” like Dom Holdenit or I-502 is taken seriously by anyone in the real world.

  4. Riley:

    You state that it legaizes the sale of Marijuma in state-run stores, making the analogy to the anachronistic state-run liquor stores that the voters wisely shut down. The original thinking was that it would be sold at these stores, but then the voters spoke.

    My understanding is that it would be state-licensed stores. The workers there would not be state employees. The state government would be in the business of issuing grow licenses and retail sales licenses. The legislature would approve the specifics of the process. Can you verify?

    The important thing is that in December, any adult could possess an ounce or less–no matter where bought–and not be prosecutable by anybody but the feds.

    Discussions are already underway with the Feds. It will be litigated.

    The bill has many flaws including the pseudoscientific nature of the test; but, tests can be used right now with a standard of zero. The law itself will prompt lots of research. 37 years ago when I was working on behalf of a marijuana decriminalization initiative in California, the University of Washington had recently completed a study that had student-subjects take driving simulator tests at the beginning and at the end of the semester. In the second test, one group drank an ounce of alcohol while the other group smoked a standardized THC content government joint. An ounce of alcohol diminished performance; a joint enhanced it.

    This initiative was designed to appeal to people who would normally never vote for marijuana legalization. Research showed that concern over impaired driving was a chief stumbling block. Each of the flaws was intentional, not accidental. The important thing is to get a law passed. And, it will be unless the marijuana community that has had several failed attempts to get something “better” on the ballot mobilizes effectively against it. Pass Now, Improve Later !

    • Bob, you are absolutely correct. They will be state-licensed, not state-run. Good catch and good response. The flaws are electoral-features. Pass now, improve later!

      • This hasn’t a hope of passing but the attempt is so flawed it really doesn’t matter.
        Funny how the same arguments solidify under a different voice.

      • Bob Burr has one of my favorite voices in town.

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  6. Thank you for an excellent article and endorsement of I-502.

  7. […] Vote Yes on Initiative I-502: A New Approach to Marijuana « The … As with all endorsements, I am adding them to the “Voter’s Guide” tab above. I’ve written about this initiative a couple times. I’ve made the case for legalization in ……/vote-yes-on-initiative-i-502-a-new-app… Categories: Latest Cannabis News – Tags: cannabis news, marijuana legalization news, marijuana news, medical cannabis news, medical marijuana news […]

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