Voters Say Yes To Regulation, Taxation Plan
Isn't it just the way it always goes? Nothing for 75 years, then two states in one day. Washington voters resoundingly approved Initiative 502, which regulates and taxes marijuana production in the state, with 56 percent voting Yes and 44 percent voting No.
The state's voters on Tuesday evening joined those of Colorado, from which results had become final earlier, in legalizing cannabis.
"Marijuana policy reform remains an issue where the people lead and the politicians follow," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, "but Washington State shows that many politicians are beginning to catch up."
"It is now more obvious than ever that marijuana prohibition is a failed policy, and the voters in Colorado and Washington have sent a message to their elected leaders and the nation that they have had enough," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "It is costly, harmful, and dangerously misguided to continue arresting adults for using something that is safer than alcohol, particularly the seriously ill who could benefit from using marijuana.
"A majority of Americans are sick of this nightmare and support treating marijuana in a rational manner," Kampia said. "Unfortunately, most lawmakers continue to ignore this fact and turn a blind eye to the harms caused by prohibition.
"The residents of Colorado and Washington have taken the matter into their own hands and done something about it today," Kampia pointed out. "They should be congratulated for taking the first step toward sensible laws. The end of marijuana prohibition is at hand."
Also notable was the silence of Obama administration officials who had spoken out two years ago against California's Proposition 19 but who refrained from intervening this year. "That bodes well," said Nadelmann, "for both states' prospects of implementing their new laws without undue federal interference."
The I-502 campaign gained strength from the unprecedented number of endorsements by elected officials as well as former and current law enforcement officials, including several former federal prosecutors.
In Washington, there was a difference of 179,000 votes between the Yes (839,120) and No (660,455) totals.
The initiative, while legalizing the production and sale of marijuana to adults (and possession of up to an ounce, with no home growing allowed), split the cannabis community in Washington state, mostly because of its controversial DUI provision. A limit of five nanograms per milliliter (5 ng/ml) of active THC in the bloodstream will be considered per se evidence of guilt of DUI under the new law; under the old scheme, law enforcement had to prove impairment in court.
Under that limit, practically any daily cannabis user -- including almost every medical marijuana patient in the state -- could conceivably be considered "DUI marijuana" when they wake up, unimpaired, in the morning, since their active THC level would almost never dip below 5 ng/ml.
State-licensed stores will sell up to an ounce of marijuana to adults; they'll get the weed from a few state-licensed farmers who will pay $1,000 for annual cultivation licenses. The marijuana will be taxed 25% at each step of the production process -- cultivation, processing, and final sale to the consumer -- so many observers are concerned this could result in ounce prices of $400 or more.
Another area of concern is continued safe access for medical marijuana patients. Although I-502 ostensibly isn't supposed to affect Washington's medicinal cannabis laws, many advocates are concerned that its rules around the commercial sale of marijuana could effectively mean the end of the thriving dispensary scene, especially prevalent on the western side of Washington, particularly the Seattle/Puget Sound area.
Drivers under 21 will face an even stricter DUI standard: zero tolerance for THC in the bloodstream, in which any detectable amount will be considered per se proof of DUI, as absurd as that is.