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What a year it has been for marijuana in Seattle and the state of Washington. When everything began last January, Initiative 502 was nothing more


The Daily Weekly's Top 15 Marijuana Posts of 2012

Joint Redone 2.jpg
What a year it has been for marijuana in Seattle and the state of Washington. When everything began last January, Initiative 502 was nothing more than a document that had just received enough signatures to put it on the ballot. And now look at us. Smoking and possessing marijuana is legal for adults within Washington. We've come a long way.

*See Also: The Daily Weekly's Top 20 Stupid Criminal Stories of 2012

In between that time and now, the legalization of pot has been fiercely debated, the federal response to such a move has been predicted and anticipated, and medical marijuana operations in the city have boomed and been targeted. There's no doubt it's been a weedy year in our neck of the woods.

To give you a recap of one of the most historically stoney years in recent memory, we've put together 15 of The Daily Weekly's best posts on pot from 2012. Whether you smoke every day or not, each of these articles is a must-read to truly get a sense of what happened with marijuana in Washington this year.

15. Responsible Marijuana Project Pushes Book Club for Mayor McGinn and Seattle's Leaders

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Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

As reported on The Daily Weekly July 19:

"We're pretty frustrated with the cannabis community and the fact they're just not bringing up the racial discrimination aspects of marijuana laws," says Responsible Marijuana Project founder Jared Smith. "Right now the majority of the cannabis groups are just flat out ignoring it. In my personal opinion, it's the most potent argument we have."

In that spirit, the Responsible Marijuana Project's latest ingenious effort was launched - designed to get Seattle's leaders (the aforementioned group of McGinn, Diaz, Holmes and Durkan) to read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander - a book that deals with the racism of America's criminal justice system and the toll it takes on communities of color. The prohibition of marijuana, and the number of African American men who have been incarcerated because of it, plays heavily into these injustices.

The book club's a stunt, sure, but it's a stunt with purpose.

On the group's website, the Responsible Marijuana Project, which Smith says consists of a total of three people and is powered by the man-hours he puts into the cause when he's not working his SoDo warehouse job, describes the ideas behind this effort:

"The purpose of this book club is to open a discussion among Seattle's community leaders about the racial disparity in our judicial system," it reads. "The New Jim Crow is a book written by Michelle Alexander. It outlines how our judicial system has become the new mechanism for creating a second class of citizens. [Responsible Marijuana Project] would like members of the book club to read and discuss the information contained in the book to help make sure that the city of Seattle can work toward a more just and fair judicial system."

Read the full story here.

14. The Science Behind Stoned Driving and THC Blood Levels

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As reported on The Daily Weekly March 5:

The answer isn't necessarily a simple yes or no, but there are multiple studies that suggest the heaviest pot users could test positive for active THC in their blood up to two days after their last toke. Those findings are especially concerning for medical patients, who aren't exempt from the proposed DUI law in I-502.

The initiative calls for a limit of 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of whole blood for drivers 21 and older, and a zero tolerance standard for younger motorists. What doesn't count for much in court is carboxy-THC, the inactive metabolite that can linger in the body for weeks after an individual's most recent bong hit.

That 5 nanogram standard is largely based on a 2005 study from a team of international scientists led by Germany's Dr. Franjo Grotenherman. Here's more on that from our feature:

The researchers caution that "empirical evidence on cannabis and driving is still much less conclusive than that for alcohol," but suggest a five nanogram limit, "may achieve a reasonable separation of unimpaired from impaired drivers, who pose a higher risk of causing accidents."

It's important to note, though, that Grotenhermen and his colleagues devised their standard for infrequent users. The researchers caution that routine tokers "may present measurable THC concentrations at all times." They also point out that exposure to secondhand smoke could result in false positives, meaning a zero-tolerance standard like the one proposed for minors in I-502, "facilitates law enforcement but is not based on science and does not target impaired drivers."

The study (click here for PDF) is nearly 50 pages long, however, and those brief quotes only scratch the surface of the findings. We'll get to a few more detailed excerpts momentarily, but first some background info on THC blood levels might come in handy.

DUI prosecutions typically focus on the level of active THC in the blood, a figure that varies widely based on the potency of the pot, the frequency of use, and the manner in which it was taken into the body. In smoking, the active THC level generally spikes at 50-plus nanograms immediately after inhalation, then dissipates rapidly, usually disappearing within one to four hours for occasional users. The difference for hardcore stoners, or patients who medicate almost continuously around the clock, is that they already have background levels of active THC leftover from their last high.

Read the full story here.

The Daily Weekly's top marijuana posts of 2012 continue on the following page...

13. Steve Sarich Loans Car to Teen 'Impaired' on Medical Marijuana to Drive Around Curious News Crew

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As reported on The Daily Weekly September 19:

Longtime marijuana activist and all-around polarizing pot dude Steve Sarich has taken a leadership role fighting I-502, acting as the spokesperson for the official "No on I-502" campaign. One of his duties, it seems, includes harnessing the power of the media, something Sarich has a knack for.

And thus explains how a 17-year-old with MS licked down a sucker made with 200 milligrams of hash oil and "a few hours" later was toting around a KING 5 news crew in a car loaned to her by Sarich.

As KING 5 reports:

Darianne Clary, 17, suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been cleared by her doctor to use pot legally to ease her pain. But if I-502 is passed and she is stopped while driving and any THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is detected in her system, she can be cited for DUID. "No on 502" campaigners said this would be much worse for a young person than a pot-possession charge.

KING 5 took a ride with Darianne (in a car loaned to her by the spokesperson for the "No" campaign) just a few hours after she had taken her regular medication.

"This morning at 5:30 I ate a sucker, which is made with 200 milligrams of hash oil, which is pretty potent," she said. "It doesn't taste very good, but it takes my pain away."

For anyone worried, Clary didn't run over any kids or old ladies, and Allen Schauffler was able to complete the story unscathed, thus proving the I-502 DUID provision is unnecessary.

Or something.

Read the full story here.

12. 4/20 Showdown: Alison Holcomb and Sensible Washington Debate I-502 Tonight at City Hall

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As reported on The Daily Weekly April 20:

The debate kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight on the second floor of City Hall. Alison Holcomb, the ACLU's drug policy director, and the campaign director of New Approach Washington, will argue in favor of I-502, and John Toker, a spokesman for Sensible Washington, will act as the voice of the opposition. Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata will moderate.

The event is being organized by the Cannabis Defense Coalition, and their press release notes that, "a lively discussion is expected." The debate will consist of 30 minutes of opening arguments and rebuttals, 30 minutes of moderator questions, and an hour or so of audience questions.

While I-502 has predictably drawn opposition from several law enforcement groups (high profile supporters do, however, include former U.S. Attorney John McKay, and the former head of the FBI's Seattle field division), it has also been met with condemnation from other pot activists. Sensible Washington generally supports marijuana legalization, but they are opposed to this particular proposal for a variety of reasons.

The list of concerns include the much-discussed provision in I-502 that would treat pot smokers like drunks and set a THC blood limit similar to the .08 BAC for alcohol, as well as worries that the federal government will preempt the law. Proponents of I-502, meanwhile, point out that Sensible Washington sponsored a failed legalization initiative this year, and that some of the most outspoken critics come from the medical marijuana industry, which presumably stands to lose money if I-502 passes.

"We just want to make sure people in the reform community have an accurate understanding of what the implications are," says Sensible Washington's Toker. "The other aspect of it is just speaking truth to rebut unsubstantiated allegations that we're hypocrites or profiteers, or have an ax to grind."

Holcomb says her goal is to address misconceptions about I-502, and engage would-be voters face-to-face.

Read the full story here.

The Daily Weekly's top marijuana posts of 2012 continue on the following page...

11. Arrest Protection Law for Medical Marijuana Patients Coming Down the Pipe

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As reported on The Daily Weekly June 7:

Medical marijuana activists and a Seattle attorney are teaming up to draft legislation that would expand arrest protection for medical marijuana patients, and clean up the mess created by Governor Gregoire's partial veto of SB 5073 last year.

The forthcoming proposal is primarily the work of attorney Aaron Pelley, a specialist in medical cannabis cases, firebrand activist Steve Sarich's Cannabis Action Coalition, and the Cannabis Defense Coalition (CDC).

CDC spokesman says the current state law regarding medical pot is so vague that police still have the power to arrest or hassle patients who are technically in compliance with a doctor's authorization to grow, smoke and/or carry weed.

"Specifically for patients in Washington State, arrest protection is necessary to minimize fear," Livingston says. "In this state, you can always be harassed by law enforcement. That basic inequity is very problematic."

Pelley says the details of the legislation are still being worked out, but much of the language will likely be taken verbatim from portions of SB 5073 vetoed last year by the Governor. In April 2011, the state legislature passed a sweeping overhaul of Washington's medical marijuana law, but Gregoire, fearing a crackdown on state employees from federal prosecutors, nullified several sections of the bill. That left medical patients in something of a legal gray area, as key terms (i.e. what constitutes a plant) in the surviving sections of the law were left undefined or unaddressed.

Read the full story here.

10. DEA Sends Threatening Letter to 23 Area Medical Pot Dispensaries Determined to Be Too Close to Kids

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As reported on The Daily Weekly August 24:

According to a press release from the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney's Office announcing the action, the letter implores dispensary operators and - perhaps more importantly - property owners of locations where dispensaries have popped up to "cease the sale and distribution of marijuana within 30 days."

Or else.

A list of dispensaries where the letter was sent was not immediately available, according to U.S. Attorney's Office spokesperson Emily Langlie. Langlie tells Seattle Weekly (and others) it would be "inappropriate" to inform the media of which dispensaries have been targeted before owners and operators of these dispensaries personally receive the letters.

According to some within the medical marijuana community, finding a storefront or location outside of these somewhat ambiguously defined "school zones" can be more difficult than it sounds. Initiative 502, the attempt to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in our state scheduled to be on November's ballot, would also institute a similar 1,000-foot boundary for dispensaries - one of the many reasons medical marijuana advocates have taken issue with.

Predictably, the federal government has so far been less than compassionate regarding these arguments. Thursday's action in Washington was not all together unique; similar threatening-letter-sending efforts have been undertaken in Colorado and California.

"We all work hard to create a safe zone for kids in school. There is a reason that both federal and state laws prohibit sales of marijuana in school zones," says U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny Durkan in the statement, which was widely distributed to the local media. "We need to enforce one message for our students: drugs have no place in or near our schools."

Read the full story here.

The Daily Weekly's top marijuana posts of 2012 continue on the following page...

9. City Announces Proposal For New Medical Pot Regulations, and Not Everyone Is Happy

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As reported on The Daily Weekly September 11:

According to a press release announcing the proposal, "The purpose of this proposed ordinance is to limit the off-site impact of larger-scale cannabis-related activity in zones where they may have increased impacts on neighborhood character or security, specifically those zones with a predominately residential or historic character."

Included in these areas would be single family and multifamily residential zones, neighborhood commercial zones, along with areas of Pioneer Square, the International District, Pike Place Mixed, and Harborfront neighborhoods. The proposal would limit medical marijuana activity in these areas to what the state medical marijuana law allows for a single user - as opposed to allowing the pooling of individual collective gardens under one roof.

The proposal will be open to public feedback from citizens in December when it's considered by the Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee, which is chaired by Nick Licata, who is in favor of such zoning regulations.

Under the proposal, according to the press release, the growing, processing, or dispensing of cannabis in the aforementioned areas would be limited to 45 plants, 72 ounces of useable pot, and "an amount of cannabis product that could reasonably be produced with 72 ounces of useable cannabis."

City officials are portraying the proposal as a win-win proposition for medical marijuana patients and the community....

However, as should come as no great shock to those who follow the marijuana debate in Washington, not everyone is thrilled about the proposal.

Read the full story here.

8. Doug Hiatt's Lawsuit Challenging Seattle's Efforts to License Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Gets Tossed

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Doug Hiatt

As reported on The Daily Weekly December 21:

Last December Douglas Hiatt, the longtime marijuana defense attorney and founder of Sensible Washington, filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, contending that the city's efforts to license medical marijuana access points were bogus and potentially incriminating to those on the front lines of the booming medical marijuana business.

In Hiatt's opinion, the city can't regulate something that's illegal under federal law. Furthermore, Hiatt argues that requiring medical marijuana access points to obtain business licenses - and thus officially declare, on paper, they're dealing marijuana to patients -amounts to requiring dispensary owners to incriminate themselves, creating documentation that could potentially be used by the feds to bust them down the road.

Unfortunately for Hiatt, the legal showdown he was hoping for may never happen. Last week his lawsuit was dismissed in King County Superior Court after he refused to name the 13 dispensary owners that make up his list of plaintiffs - which were referred to only as only John and Jane Doe. At this point, Hiatt tells KUOW he doesn't know if he'll refile the suit.

"If you have to fill out a business license for the city that says, 'I sell marijuana,'" Hiatt told KUOW earlier this week, "well, you're kind of incriminating yourself, aren't you?"

The city, and specifically Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, doesn't see it that way.

Read the full story here.

The Daily Weekly's top marijuana posts of 2012 continue on the following page...

7. Alison Holcomb's Pot Crusade Goes Mainstream

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Alison Holcomb

As reported on The Daily Weekly September 26:

Alison Holcomb isn't your average marijuana activist. For starters, she doesn't smoke pot. She also wears pencil skirts and silky blouses to Hempfest, and brings along her four-year-old son Dashiell. You're unlikely to hear her utter "fuck the feds," though many others will in the brash, macho world of cannabis reform.

Yet Holcomb is the author and campaign director of Initiative 502, the measure that has a good chance of making Washington the first state in the county to end marijuana prohibition.

An ACLU staffer, she came out of the gate with a jaw-dropping list of sponsors--including travel guru Rick Steves, City Attorney Pete Holmes and former U.S. Attorney and Bush appointee John McKay--and keeps winning more and more endorsements as time goes on. The latest stunner: the statewide Children's Alliance, not the usual group to align itself with cannabis reform.

She's pulled off these victories by creating a unique, complex initiative designed to appeal to the mainstream, one that is, as she and her staffers are at pains to emphasize, far from "pro-pot." It's no accident that a TV ad for the initiative features a middle-aged mom of four. Such moms are her audience, as are civil libertarians, African Americans wor

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