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NORML Responds To Criticism Of Washington Marijuana Legalization Initiative I-502


NORMLNORML’s Official Reply To ‘Patients Against I-502’

by Allen St. Pierre

NORML supports (and publicly endorses when requested by the principal organizers) marijuana legalization, regulation, and medical use initiatives that qualify for the state ballot, so long as they move us closer to full legalization, even if they contain provisions we do not believe should be included in a perfect proposal.

Every cannabis law reform initiative dating back to the 1972 proposal in CA has included some flaws, but nonetheless when the initiatives have been approved, marijuana consumers, (including those who use cannabis for medical reasons) benefit by legal protections that did not exist under prior law.

When any marijuana law reform initiative qualifies for the ballot, it instantly creates a much needed public policy discussion and debate about the need to end cannabis prohibition. The mainstream media, editorial boards, columnists and radio talk shows FINALLY start to focus on the problems created by 74 years of prohibition and the benefits of alternative public policies.

The value of this public discussion, even if the initiative loses, clearly moves us closer to eventual victory. For example, Prop. 19 in CA, which ended up getting nearly 47% of the vote, sparked a national debate over the merits of legalization that helped move the support for full legalization to the highest point ever, measured by a recent Gallup poll as 50% support nationwide.

At NORML, we support these efforts, even when imperfect, because the greater good achieved by legalization proposals outweighs the imperfect language; and what flaws exist in individual initiatives can be amended in future legislation (or if necessary, via another voter initiative). But in the meantime, tens of thousands of marijuana arrests are avoided by the new law.

We fully recognize the per se DUI marijuana provisions in I-502 are arbitrary, unnecessary, and unscientific, and we argued strongly with the sponsors for provisions that would require proof of actual impairment to be shown before one could be charged with a traffic safety offense. NORML, arguably more so than any other drug law reform organization, has a long track record of opposing the imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory per se traffic safety laws for responsible cannabis consumers. But we failed to persuade the sponsors of I-502, and now we must decide whether to support the initiative despite those provisions. We believe the overall impact of this proposal, if approved by voters this fall and enacted, will be overwhelmingly helpful to the vast majority of cannabis consumers in the state, and will eliminate tens of thousands of cannabis arrests each year. Thus, NORML’s Board of Directors voted unanimously (including the two members from WA) to endorse the initiative, while maintaining our opposition to per se DUID provisions in principal.

Additionally, at NORML we also support the right of consumers to grow their own marijuana, and there is no such legal protection in the WA initiative. However, qualified patients already protected under existing law will be able to continue to grow cannabis, as I-502 does not alter existing medicinal cannabis laws. The sponsors found through their polling that the inclusion of the right to cultivate marijuana for personal adult use would reduce their level of public support below that needed for approval. Again, while we continue to support personal cultivation, we believe the initiative still deserves our support, despite this calculated omission by I-502’s sponsors.

We would urge those who support marijuana legalization, but oppose specific provision of I-502, to nonetheless support this initiative because of the importance of 1.) having one state actually approve legalization and confront the federal government on this issue, and 2.) stopping thousands of expensive and damaging arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations annually in WA for cannabis-related offenses, notably for simple possession.

For those who feel they cannot support the current initiative, because it is not perfect, we would hope they would step aside and take no public position, in order not to undermine what is an historic opportunity to end marijuana prohibition, by popular vote, under state law.

Article from NORMLorg


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  1. The evil people in the cannabis business are just like evil people everywhere in business.  Criminals are among us everywhere.  By legalizing cannabis, the millions of non-criminal thinkers who use cannabis for pain relief can stop hiding from arrest and jail, leaving the the real criminals to be seen for what they are.  Criminals should be arrested and prosecuted, but at the moment we can’t tell the difference and so our loved ones suffer needlessly.  Legalize cannabis and give good people freedom to do the right thing.  Let’s continue to send criminals to jail, not people who use a plant, for God’s sake!  I can’t believe people are going to ask others to not vote for legalization because of the wording or red tape or fear over what-if stuff.  Comon, people, the need is there and people are dying in their suffering.  Don’t be stupid.  Give the non users the law they can vote for and we’ll sort it all out.  

  2. Prohibition only lasted ten years.  NORML has managed to drag out legalization for over forty years promoting their idea of “responsible use.”

    By fiddling with the laws a little at a time, NORML has managed to keep marijuana illegal for two generations while collecting massive amount of dues and generating a booming business for their list of lawyers.

  3. Thanks for the comments, and the technical problem is not something I will worry about on this video.  It happened because my computers memory usage spiked for a second, and it slowed the video down during that time, you can her where my voice gets deeper for a second, that is because it slowed.  But it’s water under the bridge.

    Now you say what is my motive against I-502, is it that it will take money away from the MMJ community? 
    I think if we are going to talk about economics, I already explained my problem with it in that video.
    It will re-empower the black market.  1.  No one is going to be wanting to buy $900 ounces.  2.  The state won’t be able to authorize or regulate these, just like SB 5073.  So the black market will be restrengthened by this.    I want to see an end to the black market.
    I have not sold even so much of a gram of marijuana since I was 20 years old.  15 years ago!

    As for the possession issue.  No one is getting arrested now for simple possession, its almost unheard of.
    The only time people get busted for simple possession, is when they are driving, get busted for a traffic stop, and they cop wants to search their car due to the smell of marijuana.
    The only thing that will change with I-502, is that when cops have probable cause, instead of getting a possession ticket, they will instead get a DUID ticket, and probably some jail time, as well as their car being impounded.

    I made a reply to a YouTube user on this subject last night.


  4. First, I watched your video, I’m wondering if you know why the video and audio is more than a second out of sink? They have software that corrects that. 
    Second, I’m wondering if your motive against 502 is, it would take money away from the mmj community? 
    Third, I challenge you on your pricing argument. A grower for the state could cultivate on an economy of scale that would cut the price to fractions of current prices. 
    Fourth, let’s say you are correct, that state stores won’t happen.  A citizen could still possess one ounce legally, even if they obtained it illegally.  As it stands now it is illegal to possess any amount for a non mmj person. 

    If 502 passes it would challenge the feds, it does advance the football towards the goal. 

  5. prop 19 was the same argument ,18 to 21 yr olds would be under the bus,anyone 21 or over giving a 20  yr cannabis would be a felony

    politics creates this bullshit 
    more fodder for LEO and the war machine.
    newsflash ,The war on drugs will never do anything but criminalize people.

    46 % voted yes ,had all the political gesturing been avoided prop 19 would have passed
    I can see both sides.
    alot of hard work goes into this and if the votes dont make it the conversation was had.

    great article!

  6. Unfortunately, it is almost exclusively RETIRED law enforcement who are the vocal critics. Those who are currently in law enforcement seldom publicly voice their concerns.

    If that would happen our task or reform would be exponentially easier. But, the law enforcement community has much to lose as key beneficiaries in the war on drugs.

  7. I agree with your point and with NORML argument. Just note that many cops are against prohibition, notably those engaged in the LEAP movement (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). Many cops are at the front of the war on drugs, and are often much more aware of the aberration and nonsensicalness of prohibition. 

  8. “…this bill would have the State selling cannabis out of State owned stores.”

    Your major objection seems predicated on a misunderstanding. I-502 provides for privately owned and privately operated growing and retail operations.There would be no “state run” stores. The privately owned and operated growing and retail operations would be licensed by the state.

    Once you have accurate information you may wish to rethink your decision not to support the historic opportunity and not vote with the prohibitionists and cops to maintain prohibition. Hopefully you will have a Roseanne Roseannadanna moment…

  9. I’m a WA citizen, and sorry but I cannot support this initiative, not only is this proposed law NOT perfect, it is not even middling good.  WA voters just got the State out of selling liquor through its State owned stores, and this bill would have the State selling cannabis out of State owned stores.  And who the hell is going to be growing the cannabis the State will be selling?  Unless it is the same growers who are supplying MMJ patients, the quality will be too low and the cost will be too high, and if rec users are not allowed to grow for themselves, they will have to settle for low quality dirtweed grown by the State (which has absolutely no experience growing cannabis) or continue to buy from the black market.  Really this law is more a few steps backward than even a tiny move forward toward legalization.  I really think NORML needs to rethink this support.  Additionally, there is the Sensible Washington initiative gathering signatures right now, NORML would be better promoting people to sign those petitions to get SW’s proposal on the November ballot than pushing this flawed legislation.

    Has no one else made any  comments on this article?

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