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

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director February 24, 2012

    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.



    65 responses to “NORML’s Official Reply To ‘Patients Against I-502’”

    1. BW says:

      I suggest those who don’t want 502 to pass stop smoking cannabis. Even the Alcoholics out there don’t complain about blood alcohol test. If you are driving badly and get pulled over maybe you are too high too drive, and if you get pulled over for another reason and you wreak of marijuana maybe you need to be alittle more careful. Everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too, and if that’s the case legalization won’t happen ever. This IS better than nothing. Pass this, and then amend it over the next decade until it suits you.

    2. Plew says:

      Nice Reply,I think the opposition to 502 can only target the Patients.The Haters and Prohibitionist will always Vote No and the Rec users will only Vote yes because it’s better than what they got now. So they (The perfect weed smokers) must convince the folks in the MM world that this is bad.A small percentage of the vote.
      For the record,2012 marks my 40th year of the use of Cannabis,I’ve used it for as part of my Cancer Treatment and I live in Washington and I Vote.I support 502.Again great Stance Norml.I’m sure the last sentence of you statement will fall on def-ears.

    3. T' says:

      Pass i 502… so we can get to work and catch up to the other states that are leaving us in the dust.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 prohibitio

    4. Calcula7ed says:

      “The large number of cannabinoid compounds with which we have compared lipophilicity and pharmacological potency clearly indicates that a relationship does not exist between these two parameters. . . This lack of correlation between lipophilicity and CNS activity within the cannabinoids does not support a mechanism of action which involves only *nonspecific membrane perturbation*, but rather it suggest that the pharmacological (naturally) effects of cannabinoids result from a more specific action (from within). . .this lack of correlation does not entirely rule out the possibility that membrane partitioning could (hypothetical? contribute to some pharmacological (non-synthesized) effect of the cannabinoids.”

      The location of cannabinoid receptors in the human brain correlate with the characteristic effects of marijuana. Of greater confirmation value, the receptor sites bind with cannabinoids and nothing else (at least none of the long list of drugs the researchers tried). (19) Characterization of the receptor allowed “MA” and colleagues to identify a previously cloned receptor gene of unknown identity as the endogenous cannabinoid receptor.

      “L” and “MN” found that converging lines of evidence indicating that cannabinoids produce antinociception (pain reduction) through multiple mechanisms at both the spinal and supraspinal levels of the Central Nervous System. (21) Further evidence indicates that discriminative stimulus and catalepsy are caused by two distinct mechanisms.

    5. If you live in Connecticut and want to end marijuana prohibition in our state, please take a minute to visit http://www.ctprimaryproject.com.

      Please pass this on to anyone you know in Connecticut!

    6. Smokey Joe says:

      I’m a medical patient in WA state and I support I-502 in the hopes that it will help bring what I see as an out-of-control system allowing “caregivers” to misuse and potentially endanger those they are supposed to be helping because they are more focused on distributing to the black market channel where there is more money in it for them. It’s clearly not working as intended when patients are left without meds and forced to fend for themselves because their grower “sold out”.

    7. menacemotors says:

      I concur !

    8. M.Sebastian Patrick says:

      I never like when people are against a legalization initiative; however you must see this from my standpoint. I am a chronic Lyme disease sufferer who smokes 3-6 joints of high-grade cannabis per day to alleviate the painful symptoms of my condition. I would have to either get rich+ hire a chauffeur or choose between marijuana+driving. I would not be able to legally drive-EVER when it is ironically cannabis that makes it possible for me to move: without my body stiffens up, joints become inflamed, and my fingers+toes start going numb. I can’t work a job or even take my dog for a walk without my medical cannabis & I for one sure as hell wouldn’t want to be faced with the fuck you choice of either being arrested for driving with weed-or being arrested for having it in my system. You must understand that with this nominal nanogram bullshit-most every cannabis consumer will be breaking the law EVERY time they get behind the wheel. They will be risking arrest and the loss of their licence EVERY time they get behind the wheel. You can get behind that; but I for one wouldn’t even want to drive through your state if that passes

      [Russ responds: OK, if that is your situation right now, you shouldn’t be driving through Washington right now. If you are smoking 3-6 hi-grade joints daily and fear you’re above 5ng/mL, then you could already be pulled over and, if suspected of impairment, have your blood drawn, and based on a >5ng reading, have that used against you in a DUID proceeding. As you said, you aren’t “rich+”, so you can’t afford that five-figure DUI lawyer to get you off the charge right now. You are already taking the risk of being busted for DUI now.

      Furthermore “most every” cannabis consumer would NOT be breaking the law EVERY time they get behind the wheel. 630,000 Washingtonians use cannabis annually – that ranges from “a joint at the 20th high school reunion last summer” to “wake and bake daily”. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only 1 in 6 (16.7%) annual marijuana smokers toked within the last thirty days. People who smoked marijuana every day last year made up less than 1 in 50 (1.8%) annual marijuana smokers.

      Now, science shows that if you’re not a regular toker, your ng/mL spike shortly after inhale, drop very quickly, and within 1-4 hours are below 5ng. Only someone, like you, who tokes every day in great volume can get to the point where you’re simultaneously (a) above 5ng/mL even after a night’s sleep, (b) unimpaired at that level, and (c) might have toked shortly before driving. So, the greatest possible number of people in Washington who’d even have a shot at being above 5ng/mL even though they didn’t toke recently is 1.8% of 630,000 annual tokers, or 11,384. Now, what smaller % of 11,384 who are above 5ng but unimpaired drive in such a manner or suffer a no-fault crash to lead a police officer to believe they are impaired on something other than alcohol and drag them in for a blood test and in the intervening hour the driver is still above 5ng?

      Whatever percentage you assume, you end up with a number smaller than the 16,000 of the 630,000 annual marijuana smokers who will be arrested on a marijuana charge. Furthermore, some of the 11,384 will actually BE impaired and SHOULDN’T be driving and the non-regular tokers who are caught above 5ng/mL likely ARE impaired and SHOULD be busted.]

    9. notSpicoli says:

      After the failure of Prop 19, NORML’s Russ Bellville offered “10 Lessons Learned from Marijuana Election Defeats.”

      #1: “We must explicitly protect medical marijuana rights.”
      #8: “You can’t “treat it like alcohol” unless you can test for it like alcohol on the roadside.”

      New Approach Washington holds that the DUI-C provision in I-502 is directed at the concern over impaired driving–a genuine barrier to legalization. If, and only if, a driver is stopped with probable cause for suspected impaired driving, and there are reasonable grounds for believing that a driver is impaired, and reasonable grounds to believe the impairment is caused by marijuana or a drug other than alcohol, the officer may arrest and a blood test may be required.

      In fact, attempts to “explicitly protect medical marijuana rights” involved adding a provision to the proposed med cannabis legislation (SB 6265) that which failed to make it out of committee: “A DUI conviction under RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504 or equivalent local ordinances must be based on actual impairment, as is the case in current law.” This sentence was removed. A stand alone measure addressing DUI-C (HB 2454) also went nowhere. It was raised at the hearings that HB 2454 was unnecessary as it is simply a restatement of current law.

      “The Washington State Safe Cannabis Act,” a proposed initiative being pushed by I-502 medical cannabis opponents, states, “However, a qualifying patient may not be found in violation of chapter 46.61.502 RCW or chapter 46.61.504 RCW, or an equivalent local ordinance, based solely on the presence, or presence in a certain concentration, of components or metabolites of cannabis, without other evidence that the qualifying patient was actually impaired.” Again, this is a restatement of current law.

      I agree with the testimony before the legislature of that “Such concerns are overblown, said Dr. Kim Thorburn, Spokane County’s former top public health official and one of the sponsor’s of I-502. “In order to be stopped for impaired driving you have to show impairment,” she said. “This is not a concern for medical marijuana users and has been kind of a red herring that has been raised.”

      We do not need to apologize for stopping drivers that appeared to be impaired by substances, be it alcohol, prescription drugs (prescribed or not), illegal drugs, or cannabis. Impaired driving, like marijuana prohibition, kills.

    10. DanDaMan says:

      The idea of mj. consumers organizing in WA to oppose a legalization initiative strikes me as either folks who’re benefiting too much from the status quo (sort of like the police…and booze companies…and these so-called medical marijuana clubs) or they are starry eyed and self-centered utopians or something.

      Please Patients Against I-502 get a grip and vote for the initiative…your medicine will only become more affordable and better and everyone else does not get busted. A win win for all!