Most Dream of Pot Laws as “Regressive” as Washington’s I-502

Please tell Kansas' patient-facing-prison Shona Banda your complaints about tax-free $150 ounces and six-plant home cannabis gardens.

I-502,Washington

On my podcast’s Facebook page, a longtime detractor of mine took the time at 3:48am to give me a 1-star rating. His reasoning, to use the term loosely, was that I was a big cheerleader for legalization in Washington State under Initiative 502 in 2012. Therefore, although “a vast majority of the content is spot on, well reported with accurately sourced information,” I am to be considered “fake news,” because I report “propaganda which often benefits a regressive law or a corporate monopoly.”

No, he’s not Donald Trump, despite the pre-crack-o’-dawn social media ranting about “fake news.”

In his critique there are a few kernels of truth, but, as usual, presented from the point-of-view of someone who had enjoyed the luxury of Pacific Northwest leniency. Mostly, however, it’s just another load of legalization-bashing from a TILTer making up scare stories out of thin air.

For example, before i502 it was a misdemeanor for the largest group of cannabis consumers (21 and below) to possess cannabis, and now after i502 it is a felony.

WRONG. The change in penalties for minors was contained not in I-502, but in SB 5052, a bill from 2015.

This story explains how, yes, the sponsoring state senator wanted Class C felonies for juvenile possession, but as the language spelled out, the felony applied except “as provided in RCW 69.50.4014,” which is the law that makes possession of less than 40g a misdemeanor (thereby making the 1g-28g that adults may possess legally outside the scope of the exception).

Or as Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys’ executive director Tom McBride explained, “New pot laws originally contained language that may have increased penalties for minors, but it was removed through a veto by the governor. That may have led to some confusion regarding what was in the final bill,” he said. “But in the end, the new law may be convoluted, but the underage possession of pot has not become a felony in Washington.”

As everyone predicted, DUIDs are significantly higher after the passing of i502, and that started immediately after the initiative became law, and not just after the stores opened.

Actually, according to the Washington State Patrol’s 2015 Annual Report, “DUI arrests have decreased by 10% since 2014.” The 2014 report shows “a decrease of 8% from 2013.”

What he’s hyperventilating about is found in the 2015 report’s “Total # of WA State Impaired Driving Cases Received for Testing” from the state toxicology lab, showing roughly 5,300 tests performed for drivers suspected of THC DUID in 2012 compared to roughly 7,000 performed in 2015.

That looks bad, until you read some more of the statistics. 18.6% of the 2012 drivers tested positive for THC, or about 985 positives. 32.8% of the 2015 drivers were positive, or about 2,310.

Wait, isn’t that even worse? You’d think so until you realize this: in 2012, there was no 5ng per se limit for THC. Any amount they detected meant you could be charged with DUID – that’s 100% of 2012’s 985 positives.

But in 2015, “approximately 40 percent of these suspected impaired driving cases had blood THC concentrations of 5.0 ng/mL or higher.” That means 60% of 2015’s positives were “under the limit” and could avoid a DUID charge. The 40% of positives that remain would be about 924.

As predicted medical marijuana stores were regulated out of existence, despite having been around problem-free for over 13 years. In favor of the highly taxed monopoly stores.

Not by I-502. Those changes all came by way of bills in the legislature, like the aforementioned SB 5052. You can’t expect adult marijuana consumers to vote to maintain their own criminality for the fear that state legislators will somehow mess up another law.

Keep in mind this ”monopoly” means “several hundred licensed growers, processors, and retailers” and “highly taxed” (which I will agree with) means 37% that has been reduced from I-502’s 25%+25%+25% by those same darn legislators.

Also MMJ patients had their plant count and supply significantly reduced.

Not by I-502. But I-502 did make it so patients with depression, insomnia, anxiety, PTSD, minor pain, and any other condition not listed in Washington’s medical marijuana law could legally access cannabis, as well as ensuring that those who do have more debilitating conditions don’t have to pay medical marijuana script mills for their marijuana permission slip every year.

If Washington’s laws just aren’t good enough, I guess people will have to resort to doing what damn near everyone else in America has to do – grow pot illegally – except that under legalization, cops can no longer use drug-sniffing dogs and your possession of under an ounce in public isn’t probable cause enough to start searching you and finding reasons to search your property.

Every year under legalization has meant at least 5,000 instances where Washingtonians who consume cannabis weren’t given lifetime criminal records. But please, do whine on to my cancer-fighting friends in Texas about the terrible burden of legal tax-free $150 ounces of 24% THC weed, of which you can purchase three ounces, can store at home eight ounces, and cultivate six mature cannabis plants if you’re fighting cancer, or up to 15 plants and 16 ounces if you get that recommendation.

I’ll be the first to tell you that Washington’s I-502 is the shittiest state marijuana legalization law in the country. I’ll join you in cursing the state legislators who clamped down unnecessarily on the medical marijuana program. But Washington has a far more progressive set of marijuana laws than at least 42 other states, both medically and for adult use. That’s the real news.

Russ Belville
About Russ Belville 199 Articles
Russ Belville - or "Radical" Russ, as he is known on-air - hosts The Marijuana Agenda, a live news and talk radio program for the cannabis community, weekdays at 3pm Pacific on MJAgenda.com.  The show is based in Portland, Oregon, but "Radical" Russ has traveled over 300,000 air miles in the past five years, bringing his show to report live from hundreds of cannabis conferences, marijuana expos, hemp festivals, and legalization events in over 70 North American cities.