The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado has endorsed an initiative to legalize marijuana in that state — one which does not establish what some activists call an “illegitimate” DUIC (Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis) law. But the ACLU of Washington state, according to Seattle-based political activist Edward Agazarm, “still out of sync with voters and supporters, stumbles forward with fatally flawed Initiative 502.”
ACLU-WA has formed New Approach Washington (NAW), a political action committee with the stated goal of promoting I-502 to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. “Unfortunately, many citizen initiatives — though well intentioned — are riddled with errors and mistakes,” Agazarm said in an email to Toke of the Town and other media outlets. “Initiative 502 is a prime example.”
“In what appears to be Washington’s latest initiative blunder, I-502 contains last-minute DUI language that, because of science, has already been rejected by state state Legislatures (Colorado and Oregon) and a state Supreme Court (Michigan),” Agazarm said.
|Edward Agazarm: “Patients who legally medicate today will be unable to legally drive tomorrow (and in some cases, days from now)”
”In fact, the specific provision NAW recommends only exists in one other state where medical marijuana is authorized (Arizona), and patients are specifically exempted from the provision,” Agazarm pointed out.
“I-502 makes it illegal to drive with certain levels of THC in your blood stream,” Agazarm said. “Unfortunately, in states with medical marijuana laws — like Washington — patients who legally medicate today will be unable to legally drive tomorrow (and in some cases, days from now).”
According to Patients Against I-502
, “I-502’s DUI provision empowers police to send innocent people to jail. I-502 actually revitalizes ‘Reefer Madness’ by allowing sober drivers to be branded with lifelong criminal records.”
Wait just a damned minute. WHAT did you say?
Would sober driving by medical marijuana patients be against the law?
Under a law which would establish a “bright line” at five nanograms per milliliter of blood (5 ng/ml), “Yes. That is what it boils down to,” Agazarm said.
”Instead of fixing this poor attempt at citizen legislation, NAW has chosen to blindly stumble forward — telling medical marijuana patents not to worry because they can just break the law when it passes,” Agazarm said. (Ask any medical marijuana patient in the state if they feel comfortable with that arrangement, in view of the irrational hostility to medicinal cannabis on the part of many local law enforcement agencies.)
“Under NAW’s bizarre theory,” Agazarm said, “police will never know you’re breaking the law if you don’t exhibit any signs of impairment or cause suspicion. And wacky wisdom like ‘just don’t drive with gallon size baggies of pot in your front seat,’ from campaign manager Alison Holcomb. In other words, you’re not committing a crime if you don’t get caught.”
There’s a big problem with this scenario, however, as pointed out by Agazarm (also known as “Eddie Spaghetti” of the rock band Supersuckers:
“If police have any reason to suspect you’ve been using cannabis, they can haul you off in handcuffs and demand a sample of your blood,” Agazarm said. “If you are a medical marijuana patient you will exceed the legal limit proposed in I-502 and find yourself criminalized for driving sober.”
Meanwhile, according to Agazarm, the I-502 campaign keeps going, full steam ahead, and is now halfway to their goal with a paid signature drive. “They have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a California signature firm,” Agazarm said. “Spent too much money to turn back now? Too big to fail?”
“Does NAW have no shame in admitting it’s all for the votes?” Agazarm asked. “Are they convinced legalization will not pass without this toxic DUI language? Is convicting innocent, unimpaired drivers of DUI necessary to secure the votes they need to pass legalization?
“Is that a trade-off you’re willing to make?”
Other Shortcomings of I-502
The faulty DUI provision isn’t the only problem with I-502.
The initiative would legalize only up to one ounce of marijuana for personal possession. Anyone with 40 grams and above, in fact, would still be subject to criminal prosecution on felony charges, worse than the law already in place.
All home cultivation of recreational marijuana would still be prohibited under I-502; non-patients would be required to buy their cannabis from licensed state stores much like the current arrangement for alcohol.
One particularly onerous provision of I-502 establishes a zero tolerance level for drivers under 21 years of age. If drivers under 21 show up any level of THC — even 0.01 percent — they can and will be charged with DUI marijuana. Not exactly friendly to young people, unless you believe saddling them for a lifetime with a DUI record — even if they were only sitting across the room from someone who smoked a joint, or if they smoked a month ago — is “good” for them!
“I-502 is faulty at best,” says the website of Patients Against I-502
. “At worse, it is law enforcement undercover — pretending to be legalization supporters — in an attempt to promote their own agenda.
“I-502 will not stop police from treating cannabis users like second-class citizens, as they have for over 70 years, and it does nothing to address safe access.
What the Law Says Now
(1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle in this state:
a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
b) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
c) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.
Current Washington State Law – RCW 46.61.502
How I-502 Will Change the Law
(1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:
(a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
(b) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
(c) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug; or
(d) that the THC concentration of the driver’s blood is 5.00 or more; or the driver is under age 21 and the THC concentration of the driver’s blood is above 0.00
Text of Washington Initiative 502 (PART V – Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana)