The secretary of state’s office has certified an initiative to legalize marijuana in Washington state, and unless the Legislature acts, the measure will appear on the general election ballot in November.
Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office announced Friday that New Approach Washington, sponsors of Initiative 502 submitted nearly 278,000 valid signatures, more than the 241,153 needed to qualify, reports the Associated Press.
I-502 would create a system of state stores where adults 21 and older could buy up to an ounce of marijuana. The cannabis would be grown by a few state-licensed growers, and a 25 percent excise tax would be impose at each stage of the production process.
Revenue raised by the excise tax would be earmarked for purposes including “substance abuse prevention,” research, education, and healthcare.
Adults will be allowed to buy up to pound of cannabis edibles, such as brownies, or up to 72 ounces of cannabis-infused drinkables (that equals a six-pack of 12-ounce bottles).
The most controversial parts of I-502 are its prohibition of home growing (although it doesn’t affect the right of qualified medical marijuana patients to cultivate up to 15 plants) and its DUI provision, under which drivers testing more than five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood (5 ng/ml) will be considered per se guilty of driving under the influence of cannabis.
Medical marijuana patients, in particular, object to the 5 ng/ml cutoff point becoming law, rather than the “visible impairment” guidelines that are currently used. Patients argue that many of them never dip below 5 ng/ml, even when they awaken in the morning unimpaired, since many medical conditions make necessary quite large and regular doses of cannabis.
But despite those very real and sobering concerns, the fact remains that a well-funded, prominently backed marijuana legalization measure, flaws and all, is on the way to being decided by the people of Washington state. No matter how many footnotes you put on it, that adds up to some exciting news.