Norm Stamper's Post-Election Regret Over Initiative 502

Former Seattle police chief and pot legalization advocate Norm Stamper was an enthusiastic supporter of Initiative 502. He did countless interviews and wrote letters to the editor. "I hope you'll join me in voting YES on Initiative-502," he urged in one.

*See Also: Roger Goodman Says the Legislature is Far From Done with Pot

A month after the election, however, he tells SW that he's had a revelation.

"I now question whether Washington state's initiative needed to be as restrictive as it is," Stamper says.

One of the restrictions he's referring to is the initiative's dui provision, which establishes a so-called "per-se" standard that would result in a conviction for anyone found to have 5 nanograms of active THC (a compound found in marijuana). This provision was the subject of fierce controversy during the campaign, with some activists arguing that pot affects people differently, so it doesn't make sense to set one standard for impairment. Medical marijuana activists also insisted that the provision would essentially render them unable to drive because of all the THC in their bloodstream from regular use.

Stamper agrees, citing one medical marijuana activist who spoke at a 502 debate during Hempfest. The activist, Kari Boiter, said she had herself tested and found she was over the 5 nanogram limit.

Stamper also takes issue with the 502's failure to allow home-grows.

Why is he bringing up these provisions now?

Well, before the election, 502 campaigners said that such restrictions were necessary to get a legalization initiative approved by the general public. Especially with regard to the dui provision, they were drawing upon lessons learned from California's failed legalization initiative, Proposition 19. As 502 campaign director Alison Holcomb told SW, post-election surveys indicated that California voters were worried about stoned drivers.

But here's the thing: Colorodo's successful legalization measure, Amendment 64, didn't have any dui provision at all. It also allows limited home-grows (six plants, to be exact). And yet, Stamper points out, that amendment passed by a "very, very healthy" margin, with 55 percent of voters giving it the thumbs up--almost the exact same as Washington's more restrictive initiative.

So Stamper predicts the election is going to offer new lessons to legalization groups in other states who may now be considering their own initiatives. In the meantime, he says he expects 502's controversial provisions to be changed by either the courts or the legislature. Rep. Roger Goodman has already told SW he would like to hold hearings on the dui provision.

As Stamper points out, however, the legislature can't mess with an initiative for two years.

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