Washington voters will have a chance this fall to decide if they want the state to get into pot in a big, big way.
I-502 would authorize the state to license and regulate marijuana growers, wholesalers and retailers. Supporters say that by decriminalizing production and distribution of marijuana, pressure will be taken off law enforcement so police can address more serious crimes. And supporters note that taxes and fees on legal marijuana would produce millions for the public coffers.
But I-502 is opposed by some people in the medical marijuana industry who say the law would make criminals out of patients, force people suffering from debilitating diseases to choose between their medicine and driving their cars.
Darianne Clary, 17, suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been cleared by her doctor to use pot legally to ease her pain. But if I-502 is passed and she is stopped while driving and any THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is detected in her system, she can be cited for DUID. “No on 502” campaigners said this would be much worse for a young person than a pot-possession charge.
KING 5 took a ride with Clarianne (in a car loaned to her by the spokesperson for the “No” campaign) just a few hours after she had taken her regular medication.
“This morning at 5:30 I ate a sucker, which is made with 200 milligrams of hash oil, which is pretty potent," she said. "It doesn’t taste very good, but it takes my pain away.”
The “No” campaign says THC can linger in the blood long after the effects of the drug have passed, and that could put Clarianne and other medical marijuana users in trouble with the law if they’re pulled over and tested for drugs.
But the “Yes” folks says that's just not true. They say the type of THC that remains longest in the body is not the active ingredient that makes pot a powerful drug.
The two sides disagree about the science behind this and the science behind the choice of a per-se “intoxication” level in the new law.
“Yes” campaign director Alison Holcomb said I-502 would create generally broader protections for medical marijuana users, and in the case of driving, should make it easier on them (and jurors) by clarifying a currently murky point of law.
“For people 21 and over its five nanograms per milliliter. If you’re under 21, its zero tolerance," she said.
Clarianne said she doesn’t plan to stop taking her medicine or driving. And Steve Sarich, who is a spokesman for the “No” campaign, said he isn’t against efforts to legalize marijuana, he just doesn’t like the I-502 provision that sets specific levels for DUID. He said he expects efforts to make marijuana more mainstream to continue, but said, “You don’t take baby steps by criminlizing every medical marijuana patient in the state of Washington and everyone under 21 years of age.”
A recent KING 5 News poll showed a plurality of voters support approval of I-502.