Seattle Weekly’s medical marijuana columnist Steve “banned in China” Elliott has put up two posts about the internal conflict in the marijuana legalization movement in Washington state. This conflict has been my #1 source of headaches for the past year or so, and it’s starting to look like I need to invest in a lot more Excedrin.
With the failure of Sensible Washington to make the ballot for the second year running (disclosure: during the most recent signature gathering effort, I volunteered to help with their media relations and some IT projects, but have stepped back significantly since starting a new job in June), a new group called New Approach Washington (NAW) emerged with an impressive roster of supporters. NAW is headed up by Alison Holcomb and the ACLU of Washington and has some big names on its side, including Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, former U.S. Attorney John McKay and TV personality Rick Steves. This should be good news for everyone who wants to see the end of marijuana prohibition, but as Elliott points out, there’s a bit of a problem.
The initiative that NAW put together includes some provisions that aren’t perfect, but still a step forward – like the fact that individuals still won’t be able to grow their own plants unless they’re a medical patient – but it has one big provision that is absolutely toxic. The NAW initiative introduces a Delta-9 THC limit (5 ng/ml) that would become the equivalent to the .08 BAC limit for alcohol. The problem is that Delta-9 THC isn’t an accurate measure of impairment the way that a BAC reading is. As Elliott explains:
According to Alison Holcomb of New Approach Washington, fact sheets found on the FAQ portion of New Approach’s website [PDF] address [Sensible Washington’s Douglas] Hiatt’s objections.
The fact sheets assert that a 5 ng/ml THC level “is analogous” to a .08 blood alcohol content, but that assertion is unproven and quite debatable — with possibly hundreds of patient DUI arrests hanging in the balance.
Cited as evidence on the NAW site [PDF] is a scientific study which, crucially, measured THC levels of recreational — as opposed to medicinal — marijuana users. Typically, medical marijuana users, especially those dealing with heavy nausea and pain, smoke much, much more than recreational users, resulting of course in higher acute and residual THC blood levels.
For example, Denver Westword medical marijuana dispensary critic William Breathes tested three times over the proposed legal limit of 5 ng/ml while completely sober and unimpaired.
Breathes took the test when an identical limit of 5 ng/ml was proposed for Colorado. The Colorado Legislature backed away from the DUI limit when presented with the scientific evidence.
As a result, the reaction from some corners has been downright visceral. Some members of Sensible Washington disrupted a volunteer meeting for NAW last month, and the more moderate factions of the group have been trying to dial back the group’s rhetoric.
At the last monthly public meeting of the Cannabis Defense Coalition, an NAW representative heard an earful from a few folks, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be. And CDC founding member Ben Livingston defended the NAW’s approach by pointing out how the issue of driving while stoned can be a difficult one politically. Although he also pointed out how someone he knew – a medical marijuana patient – had been written up for a cannabis-related DUI that morning merely by having a tail light out. Under the law now, any competent attorney can beat that charge. If NAW’s initiative passes, that likely won’t be possible any more.
And now an offshoot of former Sensible Washington members calling themselves Yes End Penalties (YEP) has filed their own initiative to the legislature. YEP’s initiative uses the language from last year’s Sensible Washington initiative (which lacks the part that directs the legislature to regulate it), and they’ll be collecting signatures soon. NAW’s initiative is I-502. YEP’s is I-505.
The conflict will continue to play out at next weekend’s Hempfest. NAW will insist that YEP’s approach is too radical while YEP will insist that NAW’s attempts to appease fence-sitters will alienate the motivated supporters you need to win. Both sides may be right, and that makes me as pessimistic as I’ve been about getting a legalization initiative passed in 2012. An initiative that can both end prohibition in a smart way and win at the ballot box is possible, but I’m not so sure we have one yet.
Evergreen Libertarian spews:
At my age I am older than most of the people involved in this fight. I am also tired of seeing those under 18 ignored. From what I read those under 18 will still be subjected to criminal penalties for using a mild intoxicant. However, in most cases getting these young people introduced to the criminal justice system will do more harm than the cannabis itself would as more than one cop told me.
And for what it is worth I have collected more than 1500 signatures for these petitions.
But what about America? Soros told Australias national newspaper “The Australian” America, as the centre of the globalised financial markets, was sucking up the savings of the world. This is now over. The game is out,”
he said, adding that the time has come for “a very serious adjustment” in American’s consumption habits. He implied that he was the one with the power to bring this about.”
Soros: “World financial crisis was “stimulating” and “in a way, the culmination of my life’s work.”
Obama has recently promised 10 billion of our tax dollars to Brazil, in order to give them a leg-up in expanding their offshore oil fields. Obama’s largesse towards Brazilcame shortly after his political financial backer, George Soros, invested heavily in Brazilian oil (Petrobras).
amazingly, i’m sure most of you dont care
At least they’re investing in energy producing technologies, instead of just turning the money back around at General Dynamics and buying weapons to use on their own people, the way Libya, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel are.
We will never see gasoline under $1.00 a gallon again, ever. No matter how much you Fascists fellatiate the oil conglomerates. The Wall St. speculators control the market. Oil consumption now exceeds production. Production is at nearly full capacity.
It is time to develop another paradigm. Mass Transit that doesn’t need petroleum for fuel. Localized businesses concentrated within areas easily reached by employees on foot, bicycle or short-range personal vehicles, or otherwise by close proximity to mass transit.
Heavy manufacturing industries cannot be expected to do this, the area required is often massive, the machinery is not portable at all, and often they are very noisy and smelly and dirty and people won’t live near the facilities.
The Automobile made the automobile industry possible. Without the automobile, suburbs would be impossible. Now that they do exist, that must be addressed. Combinations of light rail, heavy rail and small scale rickshaw services should be encouraged to develop. Pedestrian traffic should be allowed to develop, and accommodated as much as possible.
The rail built with public money, so everyone can use it and it can be inexpensive at the individual level, if not free to use.
The “company store” paradigm that the Goopers want for the entire country has already been proven to be a complete failure in all aspects. The Soviets and Rumanians and East Germans proved it, Pullman proved it. Massey energy proved it. Ford Motor Co proved it. The Chinese are going to have to learn that lesson the hard way, and signs of that are already manifesting themselves over there. They’ve built entire cities on spec, and those remain empty and unused.
We need to entirely rethink the process of getting workers to the work, and the products to the consumers, and the consumers to the production. When petroleum is $300 a barrel, diesel fuels and gasoline are $10 or $20 a gallon, how many 50,000 acre Corporate farms do you think there will be? How many Boeings and Chryslers and Fords will there be?
Hemp can go a long way to being a part of this process. Industrial fiber production doesn’t have to be concentrated in one area. If just 2,000,000 hectares were to be planted in hemp, that could feed the entire toilet paper production for the entire North American Continent. Three crops per year, each crop producing up to 25 times the amount of natural fiber of timber lands less than a quarter of that size.
The only reason it remains illegal, is there are some very wealthy and politically powerful people who are making a lot of money off that prohibition. Their jobs depend on that, their personal fortunes depend on that, and the means of production cannot be so easily centralized by them. The only real harm in marijuana is the justice system and the resources concentrated against it. Eliminate the prohibition, and you eliminate the need to focus so much money and energy on maintaining that prohibition.
It really is too bad you Fascists are just too damn obtuse to understand that.
If Stoner Lee et al. really want to motivate stoners, perhaps consider adding coupons for Taco Bell and the like to any distributed propaganda.
Lee and his minions have yet to grasp and understand that attempting to organize and motivate stoners amounts to a fart in the wind. Lost cause.
Accept it, grow up, and move on, and please don’t have children.
Best of luck! :)
who run Bartertown? spews:
Deathfagg complety missed the point…..
The bad blood between the ACLU and Sensible Washington (and Douglas Hiatt) goes back a lot farther. SW folks have claimed for over a year that Holcomb and ACLU-WA worked behind the scenes to keep the SW initiative in 2010 from getting funding from national reformers, because ACLU wanted to wait to run its own initiative in 2012 (which it’s now doing, and which it announced before SW’s 2011 effort was over). That won’t be forgotten any time soon.
@4 “Stoners” have been organizing Hempfest for 20 years – it’s now grown from nothing to over 200,000 people a year, with, in general, no more organizing problems than Folklife or Bumbershoot, and with almost no corporate or city support. That’s pretty impressive organizing in my book. Try it.
David Aquarius spews:
At this point in the game, I’m pretty much pessimistic about everything. If it’s not the Teabaggers and their insane stupidity, it’s the Liberals frustrating ability to shoot themselves in the foot – blindfolded.
We have no brawn. No one is afraid of us. Our leaders lack the strength of will and the courage to get our agenda out into the national scene. Now, we have great activists and hard working volunteers that have kept our vision alive but we have no leadership. None.
Holcomb and the ACLU have fallen into the same hole as the President and the rest of the Democratic leadership. Placate the dead-enders by pissing on your base. Show the Repugs and the Teabaggers that the ‘hippies’ and ‘stoners’ aren’t really part of the progressive movement.
Holcomb and her ilk backstab the Sensible WA crew by diminishing us at every turn. Laugh it off, make it a big freaking joke. Don’t listen to them, they’re nothing but a bunch of stoners who’ve run out of Cheetos!
It all started with the President’s refusal to make this a serious issue. Then our esteemed governor showed her yellow streak and vetoed the MMJ bill. Thanks, Chris. Don’t worry, you’re safe now. The monsters under your bed are gone.
All these policy pukes do is giggle and snort at our expense over fine wine and cheese at some supporter’s digs out in Medina. In the meantime real people suffer because they can’t get their medicine or get busted by the Feds because they’re just trying to live a life pain-free.
Let me illustrate it for you, Alison. A patient wakes up at 7am in pain just like every morning. They take some cannabis to relieve that pain and get the appetite to eat breakfast. The rest of the morning is spent cleaning and doing chores just like everyone else. At 3pm, they drive to the store to get some groceries. But their tail light is out so they get pulled over. The cops, taking a shot in the dark, administer the DWS test and our patient fails. Seven hours after taking the cannabis, this person is now a criminal. Spelled out so that even the teabaggers can understand… Under your proposed legislation if you are a legal medical marijuana patient in WA state, you are not allowed to drive.
What good is a medical marijuana law that restricts every patient from driving? Especially in a region that has the worst transit system on earth! The fact that this insanely stupid ‘driving while stoned’ rule is still in the proposed law tells us that these wonks don’t give a shit about the people they say they’re trying to help.
But then, to Obama, Gregoire, Ms. Holcomb, and the rest of the liberal elite, we’re just a bunch of dirty fucking hippies.
See you all at Hempfest. But don’t you dare drive there.
who run Bartertown? spews:
What does medical weed have to do with stoners who just want to get baked without getting trouble? Answer: nothing.
Two way different issues that keep getting conveniently combined.
@who run Bartertown
If you know the truth about marijuana you know it should be legal for adults.
Marijuana is safer than alcohol and should be treated accordingly.
Mary Grace spews:
Way to nail it, Lee. Definitely makes ya think ya don’t want either one! Now if someone would just write a compromise initiative…..hmmmm