The Yes On I-502 campaign by New Approach Washington is correct in stating that we need to end prohibition on marijuana. But this brand of reform will not accomplish its projected goals.
I-502 does not legalize marijuana — instead it creates a narrow exception by which adults age 21 and older can possess limited amounts of marijuana or cannabis-infused foods and liquids. More importantly, it introduces an unfounded DUI limit that risks convictions of many innocent people without proof of impairment.
I-502 is an extension of prohibition, not a solution to it.
I-502 is not necessarily better than what we have now. Federal preemption will ensure that no legal production or retail sale of recreational marijuana will come to pass. New demand created by the legal right to possess small quantities of pot will rise — and illegal markets will fill that demand.
In exchange for not arresting people for possession, which is subject to lesser penalties and often deferred, I-502 creates a new prohibition by defining an arbitrary limit for impairment. “Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis” (DUIC/DUID, or “drugged driving”) is a gross misdemeanor for first offenses.
Science does not yet support setting an impairment limit for marijuana. The per se DUIC/DUID will guarantee conviction rates for 5 nanograms of active THC for adults aged 21 and older, or zero-tolerance for those younger than 21. Any use can still show up in the blood stream for as long as 30 days. Medical marijuana patients test well over that amount, completely sober. A marijuana DUID conviction will increase insurance rates, affect eligibility for educational funding, and potentially ruin future job prospects.
Passing I-502 will yield sensational headlines that will be quickly silenced by federal court challenges. Citizens in our state may become protected from simple possession charges, but the trade-off will be for the more severe penalties and costs associated with DUI.
For a more detailed analysis, please read the “Deconstructing I-502” series (www.sensiblewashington.org/blog/i502/).