New Approach Washington set to add $300,000 in funding for marijuana legalization with awful per se DUID standard

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(Seattle Times) New Approach Washington said Tuesday it received $100,000 from Harriet Bullitt, a philanthropist and environmentalist from one of the state’s most prominent families.

And by the end of next week it expects to have $200,000 more from Progressive Insurance Chairman Peter Lewis, who already has given $50,000.

Initiative 502, would legalize up to an ounce of dried marijuana; 1 pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids. People over 21 could buy marijuana at state-licensed stores.

I think it’s important for all marijuana supporters to understand completely what I-502 will also do: create a per se DUID standard that defines 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood as “impaired” for all drivers age 21 and over [Sec. 31 (2)(c)(i)].  Worse, it created “zero tolerance” DUID for those under 21; detection of any cannabis or metabolite would be treated as an impaired driver [Sec. 31 (2)(c)(ii)].  A first offense is an immediate 90 day license suspension, a second offense is a two year suspension [Sec. 32 (2) & (3)].

The offense is a “gross misdemeanor” and if sentenced like alcohol DUI, according to this Washington Courts Sentencing Grid, it works out to at least 15 days of “electronic home monitoring” if you have a clean record and a mandatory 24 hours in jail if you have no prior DUIDs.  Even on a first offense your jail term can be as long as a year and fines can be as high as $5,000.  Don’t forget the mandatory drug rehab you’ll have to attend.

It is stunning that New Approach Washington would proceed with such a scientifically-unjustifiable standard for driving under the influence.  This same battle played out prominently in Colorado where a 5ng/ml standard was stopped when a local patient/reporter tested at 13.5ng/ml after fifteen hours of abstinence.  I-502 would create “stoned drivers” subject to arrest and jail who aren’t impaired drivers, especially among the 18-to-21 age group that uses marijuana at greater rates than older demographics.  A University of Washington freshman trying marijuana for the first time Saturday night after the Huskies game could be jailed as an impaired driver Monday night!

It’s also important to note what isn’t in the New Approach proposal: home growing.  You will only be able to access your one ounce of cannabis from Washington State Cannabis Stores whose growers are licensed by the state Liquor Control Board.  If you’re caught with a single seed or plant, you’re still subject to a felony with a $10,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison.

It’s a tough call.  A headline reading “Washington State Legalizes Marijuana”, especially with sales and state control, would be a huge victory and would completely change the national debate on legalization.  But is it worth making criminals of unimpaired cannabis users who drive and maintaining the criminality of home growers?  I live in Portland, so I don’t get to vote.  Let’s just say I’d look forward to crossing the river into Vancouver a bit more if it passes, but only if someone else drives.

Washingtonians, you do have another choice with Yes, End Penalties, which would simply remove the criminality of cannabis, period, and leave its regulation up to the state legislature.  Unfortunately, they don’t have $300,000 to work with.

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