Marijuana and Cannabis News

Former 502 Backer Now Says New Pot Law Too Restrictive
By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Legislation, News
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 11:20 am
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Drug War Odyssey

"I now question whether Washington state's initiative needed to be as restrictive as it is."

~ Norm Stamper, former police chief of Seattle

Norm Stamper -- the former police chief of Seattle and current member of legalization group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) who was one of the biggest supporters of I-502 in Washington state -- now says that the measure is probably too restrictive.

While it's a real shame that Norm couldn't have taken a closer look at the restrictive and downright scary portions of I-502 before giving countless interviews and writing dozens of letters to the editor in support of the measure, the former cop's about-face does highlight the glaring flaws in Washington's "legalization" law, and serves to temper the euphoria which has gripped many in the Evergreen State's cannabis community.

Just a month after the election, Stamper told the Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro, "I now question whether Washington state's initiative needed to be as restrictive as it is."

One of the biggest flies in the ointment is I-502's DUI provision, which establishes a "per se" standard of five nanograms per milliliter of active THC in the blood. This means that anyone with more than that amount will get an automatic conviction for driving while impaired -- even if they aren't actually, you know, impaired.

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Kari Boiter, right, and Toke of the Town editor Steve Elliott at the Hempfest I-502 debate in August
Medical marijuana activists, including myself, argued during the campaign that the 5 ng/ml provision would essentially render patients and other heavy marijuana users legally unable to drive, because many of us wake up, unimpaired, in the morning over the legal limit.

Stamper -- albeit somewhat too late -- agrees, citing one medical marijuana activist who spoke at an I-502 debate during Hempfest (one in which I was also honored to take part). That activist, Kari Boiter, said she had herself tested and found she was well over the 5-nanogram limit.

The fact that I-502 doesn't allow marijuana users to grow their own pot at home is also belatedly seen as a problem by Stamper (this flaw, of course, was repeatedly pointed out during the campaign by others who had the cojones to speak out before the damned election).

So why is Stamper speaking up now? He points out that although I-502 backers, including Alison Holcomb of the ACLU-WA, claimed that the DUI provision and the ban on home growing were "necessary" to get the measure passed, Colorado passed its legalization measure, Amendment 64, by what Stamper called a "very, very healthy" margin (55 percent yes) WITHOUT either of those damnably spineless provisions included -- putting the lie to Holcomb's claims.

Stamper said he expects I-502's controversial provisions to be changed by either the courts or the Legislature. State Rep. Roger Goodman has already told the Weekly that he favors holding hearings on the execrable DUI portion of the law.

But as correctly pointed out by Stamper, the Washington Legislature isn't allowed to amend a voter initiative for at least two years.


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