Initiative 502 has passed in Washington State, with portions of the measure becoming law on December 6th of this year (the 1 ounce decrim and the new DUID mandate). The rest will follow a year later. Regardless of what side of the debate you were on, this is the reality of our current cannabis policies in Washington State. Part of Initiative 502 will soon be law.
We first want to congratulate those behind this initiative on their success. National headlines proclaiming that “Washington State Has Legalized Marijuana” will benefit the movement, and decriminalization of an ounce will stop many unneeded misdemeanors.
That said, we opposed this initiative for good reason. Rhetoric and politics aside, the new driving under the influence of drugs policy for THC, which is per se (meaning your blood level, not impairment, is the determining factor for guilt), will ensnare innocent individuals, especially patients, and especially those under 21, for whom it’s a zero tolerance policy. We must work to remedy this.
We urge individuals to take extra precaution, because this limit has nothing to do with impairment. Probable cause is at the discretion of the officer, and there’s only so much you can do to avoid getting a DUID under this provision. Consider taking these extra steps before driving:
- Never drive with a cannabis-friendly bumper sticker
- Do a quick inspection of your vehicle, making sure there are no obvious problems, like broken taillights.
- Make sure that you do not smell like cannabis when you leave the home – use deodorant, perfume, etc., even if you haven’t smoked in hours. The slightest scent could give the officer reason to test your blood, and to assume you’ll be above the 5, or 0ng/ml limits.
- Be cautious when driving with any amount of cannabis on your person, even if it’s under an ounce. Possessing even a gram is enough probable cause for an officer to search you, and test your blood.
- Understand that even if you consumed cannabis days ago, you may not be safe, and should take these precautions. Active THC lingers in the body for days, and we have no home test for individuals to determine if they’re below 5ng/ml before they drive.
Given the concerns with this limit, and givin it has no scientific basis, we will work vigorously on making a change to this policy. The Legislature can’t alter it with a majority vote for 2 years (though they can with a two-thirds majority vote), but we will lobby our state’s house and senate to try and build support for a repeal of this mandate.
In addition, we will continue to work towards bringing meaningful reform, and true legalization. Once Initiative 502 has taken full effect, cannabis will remain a schedule 1 drug under state law, next to heroin. We will continue to work on removing cannabis from this list, and repealing the laws that make it illegal for adults, just as our state did with alcohol prohibition.
We urge individuals not to grow complacent with this new law. People will continue to be thrown in prison for cannabis for felony charges, such as possession of 40 grams, and possession of a few plants. I-502 does nothing to change this. As even the most diehard proponents of I-502 have often claimed, this initiative leaves us far from the finish line.
Activists in this state must continue their work towards ending this failed prohibition of yesteryear.
We want to send sincere congratulations, and a round of applause, to the State of Colorado and to the proponents of Amendment 64 – cannabis has been legalized in Colorado! We will all benefit from the message this sends across the world.