I-502’s DUI Provision: It’s Dangerous To Defend Bad Policy


The Weed Blog

By Anthony Martinelli
Communications Director
Washington state’s Initiative 502 has caused a heated debate within the cannabis community. Individuals who would have never imagined themselves opposing a “legalization” measure, have found themselves adamantly and publicly opposed to this initiative. 
Both sides of the debate have merit.
On one end, the initiative is filled with unnecessary flaws – it retains cannabis as a Schedule I drug – it leaves activities such as passing a joint as felony charges – it creates new criminal penalties for patients in the form of an unwarranted per se DUID limit – et cetera
That being said, there are arguments in support of this measure that also hold validity – the issue of public perception on the national level, for example – and of course arrest protection for up to an ounce of cannabis seems beneficial.

Whether the benefits are worth the initiative’s faults, is and should be the fundamental argument at play in this debate. 
Unfortunately this hasn’t always been the case. Individuals on both side of the issue are guilty of taking things too far, and straying from the facts.
Beyond this, some in support of the initiative have taken a position that’s dangerous for the reform movement, ignoring years of work to defend against such policies.  
This position – that the per se DUID limit mandated in Initiative 502 is appropriate, necessary or anything less than ridiculous. The argument should be focused on whether the initiative language is worth the loss of liberty with this new limit, not whether or not this limit is just. We know that it’s not.
The arguments used by legalization proponents who defend this limit, will be used against us for years.

Anthony Martinelli
Anthony Martinelli of marijuana legalization group Sensible Washington wrote this piece for Toke of the Town 

There’s no reason to defend such a limit. We must remember that even though many reform groups support I-502, most all of them have fought much longer to stop per se DUID limits from taking effect. 
The Marijuana Policy Project worked to stop the same exact 5ng/ml limit in Colorado, calling it “absurd.” NORML has written extensively on the need to fight against such limits – in a well-read 2010 article, their Deputy Director, speaking on per se limits, wrote: “There’s a new front in the “War on Drugs” and its name is DUID.
A working group setup by the Colorado Legislature to examine the same per se THC limit in Initiative 502, started their report with: “This report demonstrates that a 5 nanogram per se law would be: 1) unnecessary 2) unsupported by the science; and 3) unlikely to significantly improve public safety”
They go on to state, “Consequently, a 5 nanogram per se limit would convict the innocent, offering defendants little opportunity to demonstrate their innocence. As a result, the current law….is superior to a per se law.”
Even the U.S. Department of Transportation has stated: “It is not possible to conclude anything about a driver’s impairment on the basis of his/her plasma concentrations.”
There’s are clear reasons why people have fought against this policy for so long, and why similar policies are one of our Drug Czar’s top national priorities. Per se THC limits are not based in science, and are not fair public policy. They revoke our right to defend in court against allegations of impairment. They continue the war on cannabis consumers.
With the election nearing, the debate surrounding Initiative 502 is not likely to calm. Whether or not it passes, or whether or not you’re in support of it, we can’t pretend that the flaws aren’t there. It was a mistake to include such a nonsensical per se mandate, and it would be a mistake to defend it.
If you’re on the side of voting yes for this measure – I respect that, and think we should all demand an honest discussion. But please, don’t try and justify a limit that we might have to defend against long after legalization is achieved.