By Ezra Eickmeyer
Safe Access Alliance
Washington state’s I-502 was carefully crafted to look like “responsible” cannabis legalization to the general public. Unfortunately, in trying too hard to appease law enforcement and other opponents of legalization, I-502 creates a list of brand new threats to medical cannabis patients and providers without actually legalizing marijuana.
I-502 only decriminalizes possession of an ounce or less of cannabis and only applies to adults, 21 and older, who purchase cannabis from a state licensed store with heavy taxes.
We can’t allow this initiative to set national standards for other legalization initiatives in other states, nor can we stand by and allow it to pass, knowing the years of trouble it will take to try and fix this terrible initiative. Meanwhile, many patients will lose their driving rights and be forced back to the black market for medicine.
We have to come together to oppose this initiative and send our own message; that changes in policy need to be good changes, not just any changes, and that patients can organize and defeat threats against us.
I-502’s negative provisions are many:
• DUI convictions for patients with no defense in court.
You could receive a DUI a day or more after medicating. Because the ACLU chose to use inconclusive science, the new law would use blood testing of active THC to determine whether you are impaired while driving. Patients who have recently been tested a day after medicating have found blood THC levels much higher than allowed under I-502. This means that the police don’t have to show you were impaired, just that you have some THC in your system and you get an automatic DUI with no defense in court. If your background THC blood levels are above the low limit, you will essentially be vulnerable to a DUI 24/7 whether you have medicated or not. Due process is thrown out the window. Current law is more than sufficient for prosecuting impaired drivers.
• Will increase the cost of medicine by 50 percent to 75 percent.
I-502 has steep new cannabis taxes with NO exemption for medical patients. A gram a day will cost patients nearly $2000 per year more just in new taxes. Many patients already have trouble affording medicine.
• Shuts down safe access everywhere.
Most access points would have to shut down because of I-502’s severe restrictions. In some areas of Seattle that were surveyed, 80 percent or more of access points will be closed with no chance for appeal.
• Zero tolerance for adults under 21.
I-502 maintains current criminal penalties for adults under 21 while imposing a new zero tolerance DUI law. Adults under 21 with any detectable amount of THC in their blood would get an automatic DUI and lose their driving rights, even if they only absorb secondhand smoke. I-502 removes their ability to defend themselves in court.
• Puts cannabis under the state liquor control board.
What do they know about medicine? Since there are no exemptions in I-502 to medical cannabis, it would fall under a state agency that only knows how to sell recreational drugs to the public.
• Will drive patients to the black market.
Since prices for medicinal AND recreational cannabis would go up by around 50% – 75%, many patients would be forced by economics to go to the black market for their medicine. We would see a resurgence of black market cannabis after years of trying to bring it above ground.
I do not believe anyone should be arrested for cannabis, but we also can’t accept policies that create new threats to medical cannabis patients and their providers.
Working to defeat a cannabis initiative is my least favorite campaign. I’ve spent years volunteering to promote legalization and I not only can’t vote for this, I am actively working to kill it.
This should speak to the terribleness of I-502.
Vote “NO” on I-502. Tell your friends and family. It’s the wrong approach for Washington.
Ezra Eickmeyer is the political director for the Safe Access Alliance, which is currently raising money from the medical cannabis community to oppose I-502 in the fall with campaign ads and voter outreach. Ezra is a professional political operative of 16 years, including 10 years as an Olympia business lobbyist. He has represented organizations such as NORML, Washington Cannabis Association and Safe Access Alliance to various governments and was instrumental in securing provisions in SB 5073 (2011) that established collective gardens as viable access points. He has also volunteered extensively for Hempfest and other non-profits.
You can learn more at www.safeaccessalliance.org or on their Facebook page about their campaign for the truth about 502.