Letter to the Editor: Is I-502 Better Than What We Have Now?

Troy Barber of SensibleWashington.org writes that the proposed I-502 will be worse than what we have now, and will actually mean stiffer penalties for many in possession of marijuana.

If I-502 passes, national headlines will read “Washington State Legalizes Marijuana!” This is what national marijuana law reform groups have been dreaming of for over 40 years. The practical application of the law however will be something very different, the end results could yield some very negative impacts, and all the headlines would be for naught.

I-502 is not legalization, it is decriminalization. The language creates a narrow exception for the right to possess limited amounts of marijuana or marijuana infused foods and beverages. The tax-and-regulate portions conflict with federal law and are likely to be preempted. This will leave no legal production or retail sale of product for consumers, leaving illegal markets to fill new demand.

Current marijuana laws in Washington State treat possession of less than 40 grams as a misdemeanor. In many simple possession cases, a first offense may be deferred, leaving no criminal record, or carries a mandatory minimum penalty of one day in jail and a $250 fine. I-502 only protects people from arrest for possession for up to 28 grams — it does not allow non-medical home grows, nor does it remove any of the civil or criminal penalties from the state code. Any violation outside their narrow exceptions are fully prosecutable under state law as it currently exists.

I-502 creates new limits for driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC, more commonly known as DUID, or “drugged driving”). These limits are 5 nanograms of active THC for adults aged 21 & over, or amounts over 0.00 for those under 21. Anyone guilty of driving impaired deserves to be penalized to the fullest extent of the law, but these limits are arbitrary, and not based on actual impairment.

Marijuana impairment is not equal to alcohol impairment; there are too many variables, such as rate and frequency of use, which affect the build up of measurable levels in the human body. Medical marijuana patients test well over the 5ng limit, while completely sober. Active THC can remain in the blood stream for as long as 30 days, making this a zero-tolerance law for minors. Science does not currently support implementation of these limits. National reform organizations such as NORML, MPP, and DPA, have all fought against the establishment of these laws. The state of Colorado has shot down three attempts so far, and Washington State Representative Roger Goodman retracted an 8ng recommendation after learning that such a law stands to incriminate innocent people.

A DUID charge is a gross misdemeanor, and for first offenses carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 24 hours in jail, an $866 fine,  a 90 day license suspension, and alcohol & drug evaluation, plus any recommended treatment. SR22 auto insurance will be required at a higher rate. Any conviction involving marijuana can make people ineligible for federal aid in education, housing, and food assistance, and potentially ruin future job prospects.

These charges are “per se”, meaning the defendant is presumed guilty until proven innocent. It is currently illegal in Washington State to drive under the influence of any drug, but only alcohol has a set limit. Impairment from other drugs is evidence-based, and the prosecution is tasked with proving impairment on preponderance of the evidence. The 5ng limit for adults 21 & over, or any measurement over 0.00 for minors will become the new definitions for impairment — guilt will be automatic and indefensible in a court of law.

New Approach Washington is correct in stating that we need to end prohibition on marijuana, but their brand of reform is an extension of prohibition — not a solution to it. Law enforcement will have a new weapon in its arsenal to guarantee conviction rates for crimes carrying stiffer penalties than simple possession. Suspect cannabis consumers, especially youth, minorities, and medical marijuana patients, will be profiled in their anti-marijuana cross-hairs. The threat of a DUI(C) conviction can be leveraged to get information from a suspect about the source of their illegally produced “legal” pot.

Is I-502 better than we have now? Not when you consider that it trades lesser penalties for simple possession, and replaces them with the stiffer penalties and expenses of a DUID conviction. The war on marijuana could become worse under I-502, causing a public backlash of buyer’s remorse, and set the entire legalization movement backward. We need real reform, not pandering to the fears of a public that has been lied to for over 75 years. There is too much at stake to sacrifice our freedoms, just to gain a fleeting headline. Vote No on I-502.

 - Troy Barber

Sensible Washington: Graphics, Outreach & Media Relations


FlyingTooLow October 30, 2012 at 06:38 PM
If marijuana were treated like lettuce and tomatoes, this debacle would end. After all, it is plant. Take the government out of the equation. It does not belong. I spent 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense. I wrote about the great times I had before my arrest . Following a fiasco with the IRS, I became a dealer of ounces, then pounds, then multi-tons. Later, I became an importer. I and my friends were living free and harming no one. My book: Shoulda Robbed a Bank I would be honored by your review.
FlyingTooLow October 30, 2012 at 06:41 PM
All card-carrying members of the DEA need to read: Shoulda Robbed a Bank Here is one of its reviews: 5.0 out of 5 stars... If David Sedaris had written 'Catcher in the Rye'..this would be it, June 30, 2012 Amazon Verified Purchase This review is from: Shoulda Robbed a Bank (Kindle Edition) I have never smoked pot in my life...nor do I ever care to. I read about this book in numerous Huffington Post comments. Thought I would read it because I know nothing about marijuana or the people involved with it. I am ecstatic that I did. Funny, Funny, Funny!!! The chapters are like short stories. Stories about unloading boats with helicopters, close encounters with law enforcement, traveling through the jungles of South America. The chapter about the author's first time smoking marijuana made me feel like I was with him...coughing. All of the characters were just a group of loveable, nice guys and girls. Not what I had been raised to believe...hysterical maniacs high on pot bent on death and mayhem. They were nothing like that. If you have ever read any of David Sedaris' books, and like them...you will love Shoulda Robbed a Bank. And the crazy things happening reminded me of Holden Caufield in 'Catcher in the Rye' and the way he staggered through life. The way the words are put together are like nothing I have ever heard. I am sure I will use many of the sayings found in this book just to dazzle my friends. A terrific read. I love this book.
Jeanne Gustafson October 30, 2012 at 06:51 PM
If you're proud of your book, you should post under your actual name so people can search for it.
Nancy Cunningham October 30, 2012 at 07:08 PM
What are the chances of a pothead having the motivation to do anything, much less rob a bank or write a book? Amazing!
Pauline October 30, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Grow up.
Question Mark October 30, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Troy, Good luck getting the initiative (or bill) that addresses the weaknesses you perceive passed into law. While the voting public appears to have much more permissive views about the subject of marijuana, I'm not sure you'll find a majority agrees that objective standards for intoxication ought not to be specified when de facto greater use of an intoxicating substance is being permitted. Best, --Mark
dexterjibs October 31, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Another effort by potheads to get high legally. One thing this country doesn't need is another intoxicant made legal to use. What is so sad is that more and more people are buying into the lies being used to get this initiative passed. People are obviously very intellectually lazy.
Jeanne Gustafson October 31, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Your comments are appreciated, but I hope you did notice that this letter writer doesn't support this initiative.
dexterjibs October 31, 2012 at 06:46 AM
Yes, i did notice that, Jeanne and thank you. But if you notice, he does support the legalization of marihuana. But my comments were directed at Troy. My comments were directed at the movement behind the mythical medicinal marihuana movement and legalization of marihuana movement. And, how these movements are using lies to get their desire to get high legally passed. Troy is right, there will be buyer's remorse if marihuana is legalized in any fashion. I will say that Troy did write an outstanding article and made some great points.
Jeanne Gustafson October 31, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Thanks for helping clarify, dexterjibs. My comment was intended to make sure those browsing the comments here didn't miss the fact that though Troy Barber is part of a group, Sensible Washington, that does want legalization, that the group is not in favor of I-502.
Cosmo October 31, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Yeah, why can't they just get a bottle of gin at the local Walgreen's like everyone else?
Jeanne Gustafson October 31, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I am with you on that one, Cosmo. I've been surprised to see "pocket shots" now popping up right next to the candy at the check-out stands in some places--new kind of impulse buying, I guess.
Local Guy October 31, 2012 at 05:03 PM
"Another effort by potheads to get high legally." Says the man getting his nicotine rush on...
FlyingTooLow October 31, 2012 at 05:13 PM
@Jeanne Gustafson... I have found it easier to google the title: Shoulda Robbed a Bank Author's name is: Hugh Yonn A million thanks for the suggestion and your comment.
bigyaz October 31, 2012 at 05:14 PM
What "lies" are you talking about? Be specific. Just because you disagree with a point of view doesn't mean the other side is lying. You're perpetuating the "us vs. them" mentality that has poisoned public discourse today.
FlyingTooLow October 31, 2012 at 05:15 PM
@Nancy Cunningham... Like becoming President of the United States? Is that what you mean? Like the last 3 we have had? Smoking marijuana did not seem rob them of motivation.
Nancy Cunningham October 31, 2012 at 06:21 PM
My opinion of I-502 is that it's similarly written to the recent liquor law. People voted on it, and learned how it would affect them after the fact. People will vote in favor of I-502, and it will take a while to figure out what they did. They couldn't just ask the people if pot should be decriminalized or not. They add a bunch of crap to the thing so nobody even understands it. In my humble opinion, pot is here to stay. I wouldn't want a pothead working for me, but if a cancer patient finds relief by toking a bowl, go for it.
Troy Barber November 01, 2012 at 03:38 AM
@dexterjibs, Of all the patients I have met, including my own mother — who I treated in her final months with cannabis — I can tell you in all honesty: Cannabis is a legitimate medicinal herb. I'd like to share with you an email response I wrote in reply to an inquiry we received. I will have to post it in sections, as there is a character-count limit for this comment section (as follows in three parts):
Troy Barber November 01, 2012 at 03:39 AM
email response part 1: Thank you for writing us. Please understand, our opposition to I-502 is based on principle and policy disagreements — we see I-502 as an extension of prohibition — so it would be counter-intuitive for us to agree with their proposed solutions to ending the war on marijuana. I will speak for myself, rather than our organization, to ask why you oppose legalization? We agree with New Approach Washington that prohibition doesn't work. Since Nixon's declaration of the war on drugs, this nation has spent over a trillion dollars, for what the DEA claims to be only catching 10% of the traffic — that is a 90% failure rate — no business in the private sector could survive with such dismal rates of return, yet we continue to fund a failed policy that increases drug abuse, and creates criminals out of people who would otherwise not be criminal.
Troy Barber November 01, 2012 at 03:40 AM
email response part 2: Industrial hemp, which does not possess the psychoactive effects of its cousin marijuana, could bring creation of new industries — this means jobs for Americans. Hemp is one of the most nutritious food sources, its raw fiber is superior to cotton for textiles and to wood pulp for paper. Hemp has the highest yield per acre of almost any crop and can be harvested in three to four months. Oils from the plant can be used for fuel, creation of biodegradable plastics, and varnishes. The fibers are long and strong which makes them useful for construction materials like Hempcrete (the Romans uses a hemp-based mortar for much of their construction, much of which still stands today, more than 2,000 years later). Hemp makes a rigid press board as well, without the additional chemicals needed for wood-based press board, or the formaldehyde used in the more toxic MDF. The debate over whether marijuana is useful as medicine is over, despite what the federal government claims. Voters in 17 states and the District of Columbia have said it is medicine. This is much in line with the thinking of civilizations all over the world, where cannabis was considered medicine for thousands of years, before special interests began to demonize the plant for personal gain in the early 20th century.
Troy Barber November 01, 2012 at 03:41 AM
email response part 3 (sorry, these are posting in reverse order): The fight to end prohibition is fought by those that realize all these things; that a genus of the plant species known as Cannabis can practically heal the planet, both fiscally and environmentally. Prohibition didn't work for alcohol, and it doesn't work now. The special interests that have purchased our democracy are what stands in the way of liberating one of the most useful plants known to man. Oil & fossil fuels, chemical, pharmaceutical, timber, cotton industries all lobby to keep this plant illegal because their selfish interests all serve to maintain the status quo. The private prison industry and the military industrial complex profit from keeping prohibitionist laws in place. All of these industries invest in sympathetic politicians to ensure their interests are protected — all at a cost of human suffering, dignity, and poisoning our air, water, and farm lands. There is no honor in a war on a plant, especially when the plant is winning. The war drugs is a war on people, and is America's longest running war. So, again, I ask, what exactly are you opposed to?
Local Guy November 01, 2012 at 03:51 PM
"So, again, I ask, what exactly are you opposed to?" Those that are obstructing the building blocks of legalization. For the first time since prohibition began, we have the opportunity to begin removing bricks from the wall. You want to knock the whole wall down all it once. It starts with a single brick...
Lola Rodriguez November 15, 2012 at 08:22 PM
As I understand it... it will be legal to purchase weed FROM ANY SOURCE after 12/6... so if anyone knows where, in the Gig Harbor area I can purchase recreational week please email me at Lola.799@hotmail.com Thanks Lola
Local Guy November 15, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I do not believe that entirely accurate Lola. Yes, you may legally possess on 12/6, but there have been no infrastructure, nor legal avenue, put in place yet to acquire. Classic catch-22.


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