|NORML Foundation/Russ Belville
|Alan St. Pierre, NORML: “We fully recognize that the per se DUI provisions in I-502 are arbitrary, unnecessary, and unscientific, and we argued strongly with the sponsors for provisions that would require proof of actual impairment”
Executive Director Allen St. Pierre of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has released NORML’s official reply to the group Patients Against I-502, which opposes a Washington state cannabis legalization initiative because of arbitrary DUI limits and other concerns.
“NORML supports (and publicly endorses when requested by the principal organizers) marijuana legalization, regulation, and medical use initiatives that qualify for the state ballot, so long as they move us closer to full legalization, even if they contain provisions we do not believe should be included in a perfect proposal,” St. Pierre said.
“We fully recognize the per se
DUI marijuana provisions in I-502 are arbitrary, unnecessary, and unscientific, and we argued strongly with the sponsors for provisions that would require proof of actual impairment to be shown before one could be charged with a traffic safety offense,” St. Pierre said, echoing the concerns of Patients Against I-502
“But we failed to persuade the sponsors of I-502,” St. Pierre admitted, “and now we must decide whether to support the initiative despite these provisions. “We believe the overall impact of this proposal, if approved by voters this fall and enacted, will be overwhelmingly helpful to the vast majority of cannabis users in the state, and will eliminate tens of thousands of cannabis arrests each year.
”Thus, NORML’s Board of Directors voted unanimously (including the two members from WA) to endorse the initiative, while maintaining our opposition to per se DUID provisions in principle,” St. Pierre said.
St. Pierre also conceded that I-502 was further flawed in that it leaves in place prohibitions on the home cultivation of marijuana by non-patients.
“Additionally, at NORML we also support the right of consumers to grow their own marijuana, and there is no such legal protection in the WA initiative,” St. Pierre said. “However, qualified patients already protected under existing law will be able to continue to grow cannabis, as I-502 does not alter existing medical cannabis laws.”
The NORML executive director also admitted that the reason for the failure to include home cultivation in the initiative was because of public opinion polling by I-502’s sponsors.
“The sponsors found through their polling that the inclusion of the right to cultivate marijuana for personal adult use would reduce their level of public support below that needed for approval,” St. Pierre said. “Again, while we continue to support personal cultivation, we believe the initiative still deserves our support, despite this calculated omission by I-502’s sponsors.”
“We would urge those who support marijuana legalization, but opposed specific provisions of I-502, to nonetheless support this initiative because of the importance of 1) having one state actually approve legalization and confront the federal government on this issue, and 2) stopping thousand of expensive and damaging arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations annually in WA for cannabis-related offenses, notably for simple possession.
St. Pierre didn’t mention it, but I-502 only legalizes recreational possession of an ounce; even if it passes, you could still be charged with a felony under Washington state law for more than 1.5 ounces.
Also left unmentioned by the NORML executive director was the fact that I-502 would institute “zero tolerance” for drivers under 21; thus if they show up for any amount of THC in their bloodstreams, they’ll be considered per se impaired, and guilty of DUI.
“For those who feel they cannot support the current initiative, because it is not perfect, we would hope they would step aside and take no public position, in order not to undermine what is an historic opportunity to end marijuana prohibition, by popular vote, under state law.”
However you feel about that statement, it’s impossible to wonder just how different this entire debate could be if those who wrote I-502 would have had the foresight to imagine what an incredibly divided community would result from inclusion of the DUI provision and the no home cultivation provision.
Will that calculated move push I-502 over the top, or doom it to an identical fate of California’s Proposition 19? We won’t know for sure until November.