Wait a minute…isn’t I-502 the marijuana legalization bill set to be voted on in November?
Isn’t this the same bill that is being promoted by many leaders within the marijuana legalization movement?
Something wasn’t right. Fortunately for me, the Libertarian Party of Washington* booth was located right next to a “No on I-502” friendly booth. At the booth, a young man and woman named Adam and Katie proceeded to tell me everything that was wrong with the bill. I was floored by what I was told. But instead of immediately switching my view on I-502, I decided to do some research of my own. I acquired the entire 66 page bill and this is what I found hidden inside of it…
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
I-502 will create new criminal penalties for medical marijuana users who drive, through a new and intrusive per se DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) law. I-502 institutes a new unreasonable legal limit on blood THC levels for marijuana users. Active THC from marijuana stays in a person’s blood days and even weeks after the marijuana has been ingested. Inactive THC stays in the body for much longer.
“Sec. 31.1 Any person who operates a motor vehicle within this state is deemed to have given consent…to a test or tests of his or her breath or blood for the purpose of determining the…THC concentration…”
“Sec. 31.2 The test or tests of breath shall be administered at the direction of a law enforcement officer having reasonable grounds to believe the person to have been driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence…of any drug.”
“Sec. 31.2 (i) The driver is age twenty-one or over and the test indicates…that the THC concentration of the driver’s blood is 5.00 or more;”
“Sec. 31.2 (ii) The driver is under the age twenty-one and the test indicates…that the THC concentration of the driver’s blood is above 0.00;”
That sounds reasonable right? People shouldn’t be driving under the influence of drugs. Well, it would be reasonable if there were scientific proof of impairment with a blood THC level of 5ng/ml. The facts are…
“It is not possible to conclude anything about a driver’s impairment on the basis of his/her plasma concentrations” –U.S. Department of Transportation “Marijuana and Actual Driving Performance: Effects of THC on Driving Performance”
“THC may be present in blood for a period of days after past use, long after any performance impairing effects have worn off” –Armentano, P. “Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review”
I see this provision to be unrealistic and hurtful to the medical marijuana community. It also implements a zero-tolerance policy for any medical marijuana patient between the ages of 18-21, even when they have a recommendation from their physician to use medical marijuana. This provision would be the same as if you had a glass of wine or beer at dinner, then was arrested and charged with a DUI the next day.
This is the most glaring problem with this initiative, although there are others…
I-502 gives the report of the police officer status as actual evidence to be used to press charges against the patient.
“Sec. 31.8 (b) The sworn report or report under a declaration authorized by RCW 9A.72.085 submitted by a law enforcement officer is prima facie evidence that the officer had reasonable grounds to believe the person had been driving…while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs…”
I am not going to go into the new FBI background checks, or the new restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries that this initiative adds, although they are important.
Unfortunately, according to the sponsors of I-502, they are aware of the lack of scientific evidence of impairment that coincides with the use of marijuana, as well as the recent studies that have shown that traffic fatalities drop by an average of 9%-13% in states that have adopted medical marijuana friendly laws.
A driving under the influence of drugs charge will:
Stay on your driving record forever.
Severely impair your ability to get a job.
Cost you your drivers’ license for up to a year.
Get you a seat in drug & alcohol classes.
Raise your car insurance rates.
Cost you attorney fees.
So, why have the sponsors of I-502 added these ridiculous provisions to the initiative? They argued that their polling data from Proposition 19 in California showed that there was a large group of uninformed voters who would not vote for I-502 unless it included new penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana.
Uniformed voters? So, instead of trying to educate people on the truth of this issue, they will instead punish peaceful marijuana users?
As leaders, we cannot sacrifice principles for political expedience, especially when it will do harm to the very people who have trusted us to fight on their behalf. I would ask that the current leaders supporting I-502 take a second look and oppose this hurtful piece of legislation. The pro-marijuana bills that are going to be on the ballot in Colorado and Oregon in November will have to lead the way for the marijuana legalization movement. These bills do not have DUID provisions.
As a Libertarian, I cannot, under good conscience, support any piece of legislation that violates our natural rights as humans. Whether you agree with the use of marijuana or not, you should agree that adults have the right to choose what they put in their own body without influence, force, and fraud perpetrated by government.
I-502 will cause more harm than good to peaceful marijuana users. I urge you to vote No on I-502! But don’t take my word for it. Read the bill here and watch the debate below.
C. Michael Pickens is the Washington State Director for the Gary Johnson 2012 Campaign. He is also the author of the new book, “Libertarian Leadership: Planting the Seed for a Libertarian Future.” Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
*The Libertarian Party of Washington did not endorse I-502