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Sensible Washington is a pro-marijuana group that opposed I-502. Here, communication director Anthony Martinelli, looks back at the initiative's successful campaign and what's to come


The Horse's Mouth: I-502 Opponents Find Silver Lining In Passage

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Sensible Washington is a pro-marijuana group that opposed I-502. Here, communication director Anthony Martinelli, looks back at the initiative's successful campaign and what's to come in marijuana policy.

Sensible Washington expressed significant concerns leading up to the election about I-502 and what it would mean for Washington's pot smokers and medical marijuana patients. Now that the initiative has passed, where does Sensible Washington go from here? Will you attempt to fight it in other ways?

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We understand, and have always been open about the benefits Initiative 502 will bring, such as the ability to possess an ounce, and a big message to the federal government. We've been vocal with our concerns because we sincerely believe that some of its policies put innocent people, especially patients and young adults, at risk. The per se DUID mandate alters our current driving law so that a person's THC blood content, not impairment, is the determining factor for guilt. The limit set is 5ng/ml of THC for those aged 21 and older, or zero tolerance for those under 21. Neither is proven by science.

One of our goals moving forward is to alter, or repeal this new DUID law. We will be working with the state's legislature to build up support for altering this limit, and reinstating impairment as the standard for guilt.

Beyond this, we will continue to work toward repealing cannabis prohibition for adults, and bringing meaningful reform. I-502 is a good symbolic victory, and the ability to possess an ounce will stop many unneeded misdemeanors, but we urge people not to grow complacent with this law. When our prisons are being filled with non-violent cannabis offenders, it's for felony offenses, such as possession of more than 40 grams, someone growing a few plants, etc., which I-502 doesn't change.

We'll continue to educate the public on reform, and we will be gauging public and volunteer interest, and taking professional input, on the feasibility of us running another statewide initiative.

So far we've gotten a huge response from people wanting to help bring further reform.

There was a push by many within the pro-marijuana legalization community to see that I-502 failed. However, despite this, the initiative passed comfortably, with support from both sides of the state. What do you attribute the I-502 campaign's success to, and why was it difficult for the anti I-502 side to match it?

The proponents of Initiative 502 deserve credit for how they were able to take the message of legalization, and use it to grow and maintain mainstream support for the cause. They were clearly able to garner a large number of high-profile endorsements, and were able to raise a huge sum of money. Initiative 502 also benefited from operating in a state where support for legalization is strong, and consistent (in 2010 legalization was favored in our state 52% to 35%).

These factors, and a lack of funding for the opposition, led to a fairly comfortable victory. In some cases individuals simply didn't look at the fine print, and in other instances people felt that the benefits were worth the cons, which is a perspective we respect.

Overall, the success of I-502 can be attributed to the public's growing understanding of the need to reform our cannabis laws, and the overwhelming support for change in our state.

Much has been made of I-502 DUID provision. Is that Sensible Washington's biggest concern with the initiative? What is your response to the initiative's supporters who say this is an overblown fear, or to people who say that the fight against I-502 from within the marijuana community was leveled by those selfishly concerned with maintaining the grey-area medical marijuana industry that has boomed since voters legalized medical marijuana use?

We had several concerns with this measure, but the per se DUID provision was our biggest.

As touched upon, the new limit changes the standard for guilt from evidence-based impairment, to the THC content of a person's blood, which science doesn't support. Probable cause laws still apply, so if you're careful, you may be okay (we lay out a few useful precautions in a recent blog post). Probable cause, however, is often at the discretion of the officer. If you're a patient or even a casual consumer, and an officer orders a blood draw, you'll fail this test hours or in some instances days after last consumption, even when entirely unimpaired.

For those under 21, it's a further concern, as any detectable amount of THC is enough to establish guilt under the new zero tolerance policy. Studies show that even active THC can linger for a full month or longer.

This isn't a policy that our elected officials or law enforcement have called for. When State Rep. Roger Goodman introduced an 8ng/ml limit for THC just last year, he quickly withdrew it before it went to vote, as the public backlashed against it, and he realized it lacked scientific backing. Many have deemed it necessary to I-502's passage, yet Colorado had a strong showing for legalization in their passage of Amendment 64, which was sans any new driving law.

As for the opposition from within the medical cannabis industry, I think their concerns were more sincere, than say, the opposition to Prop 19 in California. Most patients and collective owners who were vocal about their concerns with this measure spoke out because they legitimately felt that it would negatively impact their patients' lives, and would criminalize them any time they got behind the wheel. Despite what some people suspected, the medical community put very little money into opposing this measure.

In your estimation, is there anything positive about the passage of I-502 by Washington voters?

Benefits of this initiative passing have already begun, such as King and Pierce County dismissing 220 simple possession charges for cannabis. Beyond this, I-502 passing in unison with Amendment 64 in Colorado has sent a message across the world that voters are ready for change, and that legalization is not just a far-away dream. The conversation is shifting, and the movement to end prohibition on a national level is about to grow tremendously and become significantly more mainstream.

Legalization is inevitable, and that's becoming increasingly clear.

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