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Sensible Washington – “Initiative 502 Is Bad Policy”


Sensible WashingtonInitiative 502 Is Bad Policy

By Sensible Washington

Initiative 502, especially at first glance, is an appealing measure. The message that cannabis prohibition has failed, and that we should legalize it for adults, is something individuals are quickly and rightfully grasping on to.

It’s not hard to see why. Cannabis prohibition has succeeded in only a few things – enriching criminal syndicates, imprisoning nonviolent individuals, and putting underground a non-lethal substance that would produce thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenue throughout the country.

It’s become clear that legalization is the only viable path forward.

That stated, it’s important to note a clear distinction between the political message of Initiative 502’s campaign, and the actual language of the measure. Initiative 502 would not legalize cannabis.

In fact, it wouldn’t remove, or even alter, a single criminal penalty that makes cannabis illegal in our state. Not one. If passed, cannabis will be retained as a schedule 1 controlled substance under state law. What this indicates is that it’s as dangerous and illegal as heroin under our state’s legal coding. The initiative instead creates narrow exceptions for certain activity, such as possession of an ounce. Possessing an ounce and a half, or sharing in any manner (including passing a pipe, or giving your “legal” ounce to another adult), are felony charges – delivery of a controlled substance. Home-growing would remain as illegal as it was before – even a single plant.

Farmers are given an exception to grow hemp, but the arbitrary restrictions dictate that if their hemp passes 0.3% THC (hemp is up to 1% THC, according to the North American Industrial Hemp Council), they would face state-level prosecution, even if the federal government allowed state authorized hemp production.

The distribution system, if not the entirety of the initiative, will be rendered invalid in federal court. This will lead to no tax revenue ever being raised, or any retail outlets ever being opened. This is because the initiative would force the state to collect taxes from an illegal substance, conflicting with our State and Federal Controlled Substances Act. If the distribution does stand, it goes as far as giving our state’s Liquor Control Board the authority to set a maximum on the THC in the cannabis sold, set a limit on the number of outlets per country,  etc..

Worst of all, I-502 mandates a per-se DUID policy for THC. This provision removes the protection in our current law which requires an officer to prove in court that you were impaired in order to prosecute you for a DUID. This limit, 5ng/ml, has been rejected three times in Colorado’s Legislature. Their Legislature setup a Workgroup to examine the issue, and it concluded that the limit wasn’t appropriate, based primarily on a lack of science.

Washington state Rep. Roger Goodman introduced an higher 8ng/ml limit for THC last year. He ended up revoking the bill because the public back-lashed against it, and he realized after a personal examination that it lacked any scientific support. Studies show that patients and casual consumers will fail this limit hours, or days, after last consumption. No one should ever drive impaired, regardless of the substance, but this mandate has nothing to do with impairment, and will lead to prosecution of the innocent.

Even states like Arizona, Rhode Island and Montana (and countries like Germany), with similar per se policies, have legal exceptions for patients. Nevada, which is one of the only states in the country with a per se DUID policy for THC, with no exception for patients, saw an increase of almost 4,000 new DUIDs, just one year after the law passed.

Ignoring patients aged 16-21, drivers under 21 would be subject to a complete zero-tolerance policy (Sec. 31., Page 46). Trace amounts will guarantee a conviction and a life-altering DUID. This is bad public policy.

Initiative 502 has a plethora of faults. Sensible Washington has done a detailed eight part analysis of this initiative, written from the standpoint of a nonprofit organization that has been working since 2010 to repeal cannabis prohibition in Washington State, which is available at SensibleWashington.org/blog/i502.

It may seem that these are problems we can fix later, but this initiative passing will instill complacency, and could push voters and our elected officials from supporting meaningful reform, or any legal alterations, in the near future. It’s also a serious concern that this initiative could set a negative precedent across the country, and could trick people into thinking legalization has failed when this initiative doesn’t bring the promised benefits, when in reality it’s because of its massive faults.

We strongly encourage everyone to research I-502 before voting on it, to read the initiative language, and to come to their own conclusion. Our conclusion is that it’s bad policy.


About Author

Johnny Green


  1. Jesse in Seattle on

    Wow I will never understand why people think marijuana is such a bad thing. Smoking cigarettes is worse. You guys are just taking away something that’s not even anything to be concerned about. Go change laws about drinking or something that is actually worth it because no matter what people are going to smoke weed. It’s reality. NO ON 502

  2. You sound foolish and I’d like to argue with you, but I don’t have the slightest idea what your talking about.

  3. Hmmm? wrong or not this is bad policy. What does it say about a bill that if passed it will raise money to spend on programs to tell people NOT to use the drug, spend money an programs that tell people the dangers of marijuana? that is an oxymoron. It impairs your senses, none of you will care when the 1st story comes out that someone committed vehicular manslaughter due to being high and had easier access that they had before. Also the cops aren’t spending all of their time chasing those who are growing marijuana as the ad states…they also use the word Cartel as if its a bad thing (it is) but do you think your making money now??? no…now you will pay more plus tax to a “legal;” cartel your just putting your money into a different geographical area…I’ve been on the front lines of the drug war and can tell you first hand that your priorities are screwed up… legal or not society has convinced itself that marijuana is not a big deal..but it is a big deal and a lot of special interests that could care less about public safety or you are betting that your dumb enough to believe the sound bites. The cartels suck, mexico sucks and so does this bill. there is no good to be had out of marijuana…”cmon man! get a clue!

  4. It might be BAD policy but compared to the HORRIBLE policy we have now, its actually 10x better. (don’t you see the possibilities?) Yes, its still schedule I, but don’t you think it would be easier to amend the law if adults are allowed to use it and try it, and share it – legally- without stigma? More ppl would b willing to look at marijuana differently. 0.3% Hemp grows ONLY… ???? this is better than ZERO hemp grows, and importing hemp from China. You’re giving the chinese our fucking money!!! Don’t you think our economy is getting enough blows from China? You think getting caught ‘driving high’ is an issue. Niggaaa you get caught with a roach in your ashtray you’re going to jail, it doesn’t matter if you smoked it a month ago, or if your buddy left it there. Remember, a cop has to performa field sobriety test before wanting to take a blood sample and take it to a lab. Ill walk on a straight line while saying the ABC’S backwards high as fuck ANY DAY!!!! All you need is some cologne and Clear Eyes, and that cop will NEVER realize you’re high. You’re complaining about not being able to grow your own. Do you grow your own tomatoes, your own tobacco, your own lettuce…. wtf do you grow ANYTHING legal already, or do you just go to the grocery store. Vote ‘YES’ send the middle finger to the feds, make the fuckers work, make the price of cannabis fail, make other states come out with better initiatives (and give them a better chance to pass) and eventually, the FEDS will have to change their law, and everything will get better from there. If you vote ‘no’ you might as well go get a job at the DEA, cuz you’re not helping ANYBODY!!!

  5. I don’t think this article is factually correct. Based on what I’ve read the state will issue licenses starting at $250 (annual renewal $1000) for cultivation of marijuana. Cultivators can’t sell, and sellers can’t cultivate. The state intends to produce tax revenue off of this program, so I doubt they would hamstring it with silly restrictions on THC content. The DUI thing is silly, but DUI for marijuana has always been a grey area. Better to try and fail than to not try at all. Give it a chance.

  6. There will be a VAT on cannabis. This is inescapable. We have one for tobacco, we have one for alcohol – we’ll have one for cannabis.

    And prices will fall post-502, even as quality improves. Its basic economics.

  7. This initiative is ridiculous and will do nothing but triple the retail cost of decent bud. Do the math: at the “assumed sale price” of $12/gram plus 25% excise tax plus 9% sales tax and we’re looking at an average price of at least $450/ounce, which is 125% more than current average cost of $200/ounce, or ~$300/ounce at a coop.
    It should be legalized, but there should be no excise tax associated with its decriminalization. A store selling weed pays a business tax and charges sales tax … That should be enough revenue for the state. The cost of permits for commercial growers and retailers can supplement enforcement costs.
    I.M. 502 is not the answer.

  8. Harry Anslinger on

    Unless you cause a bad accident while driving impaired, your blood will not be sampled. Don’t kid yourself into thinking all police cruisers will now have a registered nurse along for the ride. Police cannot and will not draw blood from drivers. This argument against is nonsense. Legalize already!

  9. I’ve supported Sensible Washington in the past and never will again. They could have just focused on running their own initiative, but instead they’ve thrown in with Sarich and his minions to defeat our best chance to make major progress on marijuana reform.

  10. Sensible Washington, what is the statutory cite for
    charging a zero tolerance DUI for 16-20 year olds under I-502 when impairment is not an issue? Section 31, page 46 is where I-502’s amendments of 46.20.308 begin. This is not a statute you would ever see on a
    complaint (the document given to the defendant that lists the charges). It concerns license suspensions and procedures
    following a breath test. Anyone who says that someone can be charged under
    46.20.308 doesn’t understand what they have read or hasn’t read I-502 at all.

    Fighting over science or moral concerns is fair game. This
    is not. Congratulations to Sensible Washington on contributing to 70+ years of misinformation.

    If I am wrong, prove it. Don’t pretend like this thing doesn’t
    exist and keep writing articles for the public like this. Let’s see the
    OFFICIAL reasoning behind this.
    There is no zero tolerance per se DUI created by I-502. period.

  11. This is what it comes down to for me. NAW got their initiative to qualify and SW didn’t. Had it been the other way around I would be voting yes for Sensible Washington’s initiative. I know that you guys don’t want distribution and supply going to the state but we’ve gotta get the ball rolling somehow and the sooner the better. I sincerely hope that the medical community won’t be affected by I-502 but I am going to vote for what I think is right for me.

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