Washington Voters Split On Marijuana Legalization


Elway Research
Support has fallen since last July. (Hey, looks like Elway’s auto-correct got ’em, changing “initiative” to “imitative.”)

​​Washington state voters appear increasingly split on the prospect of marijuana legalization as a ballot initiative heads to the Legislature next week.

A new Elway Research Poll released on Wednesday showed softening support for Initiative 502, which would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and tax sales, with 48 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed, reports Jonathan Martin at the Seattle Times. The margin of error is five percentage points.
Conventional wisdom holds that initiatives which have starting points of less than around 55 percent support have a low chance of passage at the ballot box.

Oh, It’s All So Complicated! Here’s The Problem
New Approach Washington campaign director Alison Holcomb said the Elway poll question didn’t mention provisions in I-502 that are “popular with voters,” including restricting marijuana sales to adults 21 or older and earmarking marijuana tax revenue for health and drug-abuse-prevention programs.

Alison Holcomb, New Approach Washington: “Our research over the years has shown us that voters actually care about what the details are”

​”Our research over the years has shown us that voters really care about what the details are,” she said, not without some irony, since some of the “details” in I-502 — such as its strict ban on home cultivation and its onerous and scientifically unsupported per-se DUI limit of five nanograms per milliliter THC blood level — have cost the bill lots of support in the cannabis community.
You see, that 5 ng/ml driving limit would, at one fell swoop, likely criminalize most driving by many medical marijuana patients in Washington, since many of them typically wake up in the morning, unimpaired, with higher blood levels of THC than 5 ng/ml.
A letter was sent to I-502’s sponsors by Richard Bayer, MD; lawyers David Arganian and Jeffrey Steinborn; Gil Mobley, MD; Vivian McPeak, executive director of Seattle Hempfest; and Ric Smith, who has been a prominent patient advocate since 1996. These individuals detailed why I-502’s DUIC language is unnecessary, unscientific, and unfair.
“This was discussed at length — with plenty of time for NAW to act — and NAW conciously chose to throw authorized users of medical marijuana under the bus with their arbitrary, unscientific pandering,” Ric Smith told Toke of the Town Thursday morning.
State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles is reportedly working on another medical marijuana “fixer” bill for this month’s session of the Legislature — and this bill will reportedly attempt to fix the glaring DUI flaws in I-502 or similar legislation.
Kohl-Welles’ new bill, currently under construction, provides an exception for medical marijuana patients, according to the Cannabis Defense Coalition: “Disallows conviction of DUI for qualifying patients based solely on the presence in a certain concentration, of components or metabolites of cannabis. Proof of actual impairment is required.” [italics added]

Here’s the thing. The very fact that such an exception is deemed necessary means, by definition, there is a problem with the DUI provision of NAW’s I-502.

Part IV of I-502 is the tax mechanism which establishes a 25 percent excise tax upon every transfer from producer to processor(s) to retailer and earmarks the majority of such revenue.

​Would it have been so hard to put a sensible DUI exception for patients in I-502 to begin with? It certainly would have resulted in a lot more support from Washington’s patient community.
And it also would have made irrelevant the hateful suggestions by some cynics (or damn liars) who claim that the real reason the medical marijuana patient community opposes I-502 is to protect the financial interests of the dispensaries. To attempt to cast the real concern for patients, and their ability to drive, as some sort of greedy power play by dispensary owners is execrable.
Equally repellent is the idea, and expectation, that Washington’s medical marijuana patients — and remember, under state law here, you must have a “chronic or terminal illness” to get medicinal cannabis — should somehow be willing to throw themselves under the bus and potentially sacrifice their right to drive, “for the team.”
Maybe while I wasn’t paying attention it became an acceptable political tactic to pick the weakest and sickest members of a group and sacrifice those in order to achieve some sort of pyrrhic legalization victory — but fuckety fuck, don’t expect me to support sending myself to jail for “DUI” when I’m not even impaired.
Now, maybe it’s a paltry percentage of the total electorate who even care whether or not medical marijuana patients are allowed to drive (unimpaired, mind you), but, hey NAW, in a vote shaping up to be very close, one or two percentage points can certainly sink an initiative, homies.

Rising Support Elsewhere… Go Figure
Other polls, both in Washington state and nationwide, have shown rising support for cannabis legalization. A KING-TV/Survey USA poll in November — asking about specific provisions in I-502 — found 57 percent approval, with strong support among baby boomers.
The new Elway poll, which asked more general questions about legalization, still found the strongest support among voters who were younger and more educated. But according to pollster Stuart Elway, support has weakened since last July, when 54 percent supported legalization.
“If you’re a supporter, it’s going the wrong way,” Elway said.
New Approach Washington, which sponsors the I-502 campaign, turned in more than 341,000 signatures in December. That’s far more than the number required to put the issue before the Legislature this month.
It the Legislature doesn’t take action, the initiative will head to the November general-election ballot, giving Washington votes their first-ever chance to vote up or down on marijuana legalization.
Supporters estimate the initiative would raise $215 million by heavily taxing sales at privately owned, state-licensed cannabis stores. The state Liquor Control Board would license marijuana farms and cannabis food processors.
Legalization also appears headed for the 2012 ballot in Colorado. Campaigns are underway in California, Oregon, Missouri, Michigan, and other states.