Marijuana and Cannabis News

Emery Endorses I-502; Calls Opposition Foolish and Dangerous
By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Legislation, News
Monday, April 30, 2012 at 11:20 am
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The Marijuana Advocate
Marc Emery: "How ironic that I have far more respect for my former prosecutor and his proposed legislation than I have for those activists who would foolishly and dangerously oppose this great step forward over trivialities"
Self-styled "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery has called the opposition of Washington state activists to the DUI provisions in a legalization initiative "foolish," "dangerous" and suggested that those who oppose I-502 are just "jealous."

Emery, writing from a federal prison cell 2,000 miles away in Mississippi, said the opposition of Washington state medical marijuana patient activists to being subject to DUI arrest was "disturbing" and "absurd."

Rather than just accepting Emery's marching orders, I decided to check with some actual Washington medical marijuana activists on the ground to get their take on things. You know -- those "foolish," "dangerous," "jealous" folks who look out for the patients.

Even among Emery's staunchest backers, some were taken aback by the shrill, strident tone of his message. Several of those who read the statement said it seemed as if Emery had never even read the actual language of the measure he was endorsing.

"How ironic that I currently have far more respect for my former prosecutor and his proposed legislation that I have for those activists who would foolishly and dangerously oppose this great step forward over trivialities, much the same way as done by many so-called members of the movement who killed Prop. 19 in California in 2010," Emery wrote. "Much of the Washington state opposition to I-502 is rooted in adversarial jealousy, because after three attempts, some activists just can't get an initiative of their own on the ballot, so resent [former U.S. Attorney John] McKay, the ACLU and their backers who did manage to get I-502 on the ballot."

Emery devoted three paragraphs of his Cannabis Culture blog post -- much of which was devoted to describing prison life, and his work with a prison rock band -- to the I-502 controversy:

The great news continues. My former prosecutor John McKay, not content with just being a lecturer on the evils of the drug war, is also co-sponsor of an excellent legalization initiative on the Washington State ballot this November. Apology accepted, Mr. McKay! What's really disturbing though, is the number of the 'grassroots' activists in Washington state who are absurdly opposing the I-502 legalization bill because of a clause that allows police to issue DUI's if a very high level of THC is in the bloodstream while driving. Otherwise, adults can possess, transport, and buy at licensed outlets a huge range of cannabis buds - all legally, without fear of arrest or prosecution. That's incredible!

Currently 10,000 people in Washington State get arrested for pot possession each year. That would end under this legislation. How ironic that I currently have far more respect for my former prosecutor and his proposed legislation than I have for those activists who would foolishly and dangerously oppose this great step forward over trivialities, much the same way as done by many so-called members of the movement who killed Prop. 19 in California in 2010. Much of the Washington state opposition to I-502 is rooted in adversarial jealousy, because after three attempts, some activists just can't get an initiative of their own on the ballot, so resent McKay, the ACLU and their backers who did manage to get I-502 on the ballot. Sometimes the famous quip Pogo Possum said in the eponymous cartoon is correct: "We have met the enemy, and it us."

I implore all Washington State activists and concerned citizens to support I-502. Read the very important editorial in the NY Times by Seattle activist Dominic Holden called Smokeless in Seattle" and NORML's Russ Belville's blog on why supporting I-502 with your vote this November is essential. I think Russ Belville is the best commentator out there regarding our movement, and all his writings are very, very good.

"I am very sorry to hear Marc describe so many that have worked so hard over many years for cannabis reform as foolish, dangerous and our opposition absurd, while comparing our actions to those who opposed Prop 19, which had troubling aspects of its own," activist Don Skakie, who was among those working the hardest for Sensible Washington's legalization initiatives, told Toke of the Town. "I guess that is what happens when we surpass 'the perfect being the enemy of the good' with "It polls well; let's run with it.' "

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Yes End Penalties Washington
Don Skakie: "I am very sorry to hear Marc describe so many that have worked so hard over many years for cannabis reform as foolish, dangerous and our opposition absurd"
"The only problem with this thinking is that people actually read and decide for themselves before voting, not just blindly follow what they are told," Skakie told us. "So no, Marc, it is a legitimate concern for lives lived under this law, not adversarial jealousy (although many were disappointed the ACLU came out AGAINST I-1068 in 2010.

"It was a great strategy to play off the gains in public support for the previous initiative efforts to sell 502 as 'legalization,' " Skakie said. "It's amazing what you can do with $1.35M when paid gatherers lie to get signatures many wish they could take back, now that they know the details of 502. Our hat is off to them. But how about listening to the opposition instead of dissing and dismissing them? Do they really have no legitimate concerns?"

Another Washington state activist in a position to know -- but who preferred to remain anonymous -- said she was a big supporter of the Emerys, and was dismayed by their support for I-502.

"While I respect Marc Emery greatly and am sickened by his unfortunate circumstances, I must question some of his recent statements," she told Toke of the Town. "I don't know what's more disheartening -- Marc's harsh criticism of 'grassroots' activists or seeing him lavish praise on the man who sent him to prison [former U.S. Attorney John McKay]."

"It is obvious from some of Marc's statements that he has not actually read Initiative 502," the activist told us. "He says the THC blood-testing mandate requires 'very high levels' to convict a person of DUI. Perhaps he is not aware that the term nanogram, which is the unit in which THC will be measured under I-502, is equivalent to a BILLIONTH of a gram. It is a fraction of a microscopic amount. Maybe Marc also missed the fact that the section in I-502 that calls for a ZERO NANOGRAM limit for a wide swath of Washington citizens, some of whom are legally-recognized medical cannabis users.

"Marc implores his followers to read blog postings from admittedly biased Russ Belville and Dominic Holden," she told us. "Like his sidekicks Russ and Dominic, Marc refers to the '10,000 people arrested for pot possession each year.' Marc does not mention that many of those possession arrests will still occur under I-502, which continues to make it illegal to possess a single plant or a crumble over 28.3 grams. Simply passing a joint to a friend is considered 'distribution' under I-502's terms.

"Marc compares I-502 opponents to those who defeated Proposition 19 in California, a political maneuver being persistently utilized by, you guessed it, Dominic Holden and Russ Belville," she told us. "In reality, many of those who oppose I-502 supported Proposition 19, just like they support every other legalization initiative with the exception of I-502.

"Marc goes so far as to label every 502 opponent as resentful and jealous, while consistently avoiding the actual facts," she said. "Had he taken the time to read I-502, Marc would undoubtedly understand the fundamentals at the heart of this divisive debate."

Sensible Washington activist Anthony Martinelli echoed both the respect for Emery, and the serious concerns with his pro-502 statement.

"What Mr. Emery has done for the movement is incredible, and I have the utmost respect for him and the work he's done, and continues to do," Martinelli told Toke of the Town. "But when it comes to this issue, unfortunately he's wrong. I-502's faults are far from trivial, as handing the Drug Czar one of his top national policies (per se DUID for cannabis) isn't a move that should be taken lightly, especially on the back of such already faulty reform.

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Anthony Martinelli
Anthony Martinelli: "I-502 is absolutely not what it's being made out to be, and those who support cannabis law reform have every right to be in opposition"
"Unfortunately Mr. Emery's claim that I-502 will stop the 10,000 cannabis arrests in our state simply isn't true," Martinelli pointed out. "Beyond the fact that a good portion of these 10,000 arrests come from laws I-502 wouldn't change (any cannabis charge beyond possessing an ounce), many of the arrests that are halted will be replaced with unimpaired DUIDs due to the unscientific yet mandated limit, felony distribution charges (which passing a joint or bowl or sharing "legal" ounces would continue to be considered), etc."

"I-502 is absolutely not what it's being made out to be, and those who support cannabis law reform have every right to be in opposition, or at the very least wary of an initiative that includes one of our Drug Czar's top national policies," Martinelli said.

Martinelli's fellow Sensible Washington activist Cydney Moore agreed.

"It's an unfortunate thing that there are those who refuse to acknowledge the fact that I-502 is nothing but a false promise of safety," Moore told Toke of the Town. "We cannot allow our state to set such a poor example of 'reform' for the rest of the country, and the other states looking for a way to make change.

"When considering the science behind the 5ng limit in I-502, it is clear there is no reasonable indication of consistent impairment in individuals based on a single number, and 5ng is a random level pulled out of thin air and prohibitionist propaganda," Moore told us. "I encourage everyone to be thoroughly educated and well-informed about this initiative before making a choice of whether to vote 'yes' or 'no.' I think the facts will leave no doubt in one's mind that this initiative is flawed and faulty.

"I appreciate everything Marc Emery has done for the cannabis reform movement, but I respectfully disagree with his opinion on I-502," Moore said. "I think, if presented with more information, he could very well reconsider. There are many in our community who began with enthusiastic support of this initiative, but changed their minds when they learned of the potential repercussions."

Skakie, too, suspected that if Marc Emery actually knew more about I-502, he might not have endorsed it.

"Speaking to Jodie Emery recently, I was surprised to hear of her support for I-502," Skakie told me. "Although disappointed, I realized the further one is from this debate, the less they fully hear both sides. The side they do hear on I-502 is well funded and powerful in ways that not all consider.

"I appreciate that Marc is in prison and that he wants to go home as soon as possible," Skakie said. "I also appreciate that anyone's view is limited to the information they receive and the Emerys may not have fully read I-502 (given Marc's recent comments), or the alternative Cannabis Child Protection Act, I-1223 and I-514, now collecting signatures to qualify for the vote as well, or considered the implications of passage of any of these.

"I say this because in reading Marc's comments, he calls 502 'an excellent legalization initiative' but doesn't speak to the details he supports," Skakie pointed out. "He mentions the possibility of ending 10,000 possession arrests ending if 502 passes as a hard fact. He also mentions the potential of ability to choose from a 'huge range' of cannabis and cannabis products. Were it only true.

"Many have raised several concerns about 502, well beyond the red hearing that the only reason anyone opposes it is the 5ng provision, (called 'a very high level' by Marc) attributed to a desire to drive while impaired. But the fact is that there are many concerns with 502 including a prohibitively high tax structure, zero tolerance for those under 21 (while there is tolerance in the law for 0.02 percent BAC for alcohol for those under 21), no provision for home growing and requiring anyone who wants to be 'licensed' to submit fingerprints to Federal law enforcement, to name a few.

"Many believe that these are not 'trivialities,' as Marc describes them," Skakie told me. "They tend to be the people who live in Washington and will have to live under these laws.

"So I encourage the Emerys to read the 68 pages of 502 and think about what it really means," Skakie said. "It means there will be no state licensed stores due to Federal preemption. It means the Feds will have the names and fingerprints of those likely in the cannabis economy now who would want to become legitimate when Prohibition ends. It means that with passage that requires licensing, but no licenses, current safe access would clearly be in violation of the law and be shut down. Patients living in fear and economic repression are the consequences of 502.

"I know many who support 502 and many who do not, but we'll have to wait until November to see what the voters decide," Skakie said. "I look forward to the debate that follows and the Emerys' and NORML's open mindedness in presenting both sides without the marginalization and derision of the opposition that we have seen to date. To think that Prop 19 was the end of reform efforts in California, or that previous efforts to reform in Washington mean that 502 is the only option going forward, is naive at best."

Activist Edward Agazarm of No On I-502 was unsparing in his assessment of the negative impact of the measure.

"I-502 is chuck full of FELONY convictions for casual cannabis behaviors," activist Edward Agazarm told Toke of the Town. "I-502 is not very friendly. Share a joint with a friend = FELONY. Give some to a friend as a gift = FELONY. Sell some of your stash to your friendly neighbor = FELONY. Buy weed together with a friend = FELONY. Ride in a car with two friends who each have one ounce = FELONY. Grow one plant on your own property = FELONY.

"Let's call this reform and let's endorse this," Agazarm said. "We don't really need our drivers license anyway. We can feel important that we reformed pot laws in our lifetime."


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