By Marc Emery
I have written thousands of words on the controversy surrounding Washington State’s I-502 legalization initiative. I even get people in my comments sections who hate me because of my opinions on the issue. Now, Marc Emery, the British Columbian marijuana seed seller doing federal time in America, also known as “The Prince of Pot” and one of the leading funders of the legalization movements in North America, has some harsh words for people who proclaim themselves supporters of legalization, but are actively opposingthis legalization.
“Most of our people in the cannabis culture who smoke, grow, or sell the herb don’t vote. The vast majority will never give money to political reform of any kind, most won’t gather signatures (unless they are paid) and will never write their congressperson or even a letter to the newspaper to condemn prohibition.
For the most part, our people are politically useless, unwilling and unable to organize, distracted by petty acrimony, and won’t actively support candidates or initiatives that will further the legalization of cannabis. For all the 250,000 stoners/pot people who come to Seattle Hempfest each August, the organizers can’t even get this mass to contribute pennies per person in donations, so pathetic is the sense of political responsibility among our people. Even a tremendous event like Hempfest suffers deficits because our people can’t collectively volunteer to give even ten cents per attendee to pay for its costs. Sad, sad, sad.
Should I-502 fail to pass in November, we’ll know who to blame, and who can be held responsible. The so-called grassroots could not manage to get their own initiative on the ballot, and in their frustration, they may choose to sabotage the best opportunity Washington State has had in the long history of prohibition to do what is possible — under the political reality of the day — to legalize marijuana.”
The primary objection to legalization comes from a tiny minority of the Evergreen State’s medical marijuana community. More accurately, the growers, doctors, and lawyers who serve the community, and the patients they’ve managed to frighten. The issue at hand is the legalization includes a per se DUID of 5ng/mL THC in blood*, which is “a ‘legal limit’ like alcohol for DUI” in layman’s terms.
What they’re righteously angry about is that having a number on a test about the pot in your blood is not a scientifically accurate determination of impairment, especially not as low as 5ng/mL and especially not for people who smoke (use) a lot of pot all the time. Like medical marijuana patients. And they are factually correct.
But that has been ratcheted up by the tiny minority to mean “No patients will ever be able to drive! They’ll all be getting DUIDs! There will be more DUIDs to replace all the 1 ounce pot arrests!” and so on.
The fact is that if someone who smokes (uses) a lot of pot all day every day gets behind the wheel today, they are most likely a DUID waiting to happen. Any amount of THC in blood is evidence to convict you of a DUID today. After I-502, there will actually be a “legal limit” of 5ng/mL you could be under!
Now, the difference, as opponents are quick to note, is the per se means “in and of itself” in legalese, which translates to “slam dunk” for the prosecutor who wants to try you for a >5ng blood test. If it’s per se, you’re guaranteed guilty, just like a drunk who’s over 0.08 BAC on the breathalyzer, even if he’s the best driver on the road. Today, it’s not per se, which means a prosecutor, while he can enter blood tests into evidence, must still prove the driver was impaired.
But if a >5ng/mL DUID case is a “slam dunk” after I-502, it is a “fast break lay-up” right now. If you go to court having tested at >5ng/mL, you’re not very likely to be acquitted. Especially since the cop had to have a) evidence of smoke in the car (in which case, you should get a DUID), b) evidence of your impaired driving (dash cam of you weaving out of lanes, failed field sobriety test, etc.), and/or c) you wrecked your car in order to get your blood in the first place.
And to extend the NBA Playoff metaphor, right now, DUID charges with <5ng/mL blood tests are “mid range jumpers”. There are plenty of examples of convictions below 5ng where that blood evidence convinced a judge or jury to convict, because who the fark knows what a nanogram per milliliter is and how much of it makes you too high to drive? ”She was at 1.6 ng/mL Your Honor…” OK, so is that a lot? What’s ‘high’, 100? 10? .08?
But after I-502 passes, those types of prosecutions become “half court shots”. Any competent defense attorney will just say, “Your Honor, my client is a medical marijuana patient who has developed a tolerance to her medication and, after all, she was only at 1.6ng/mL, which is less than a third of the legal limit for THC.”
However unscientific, unjust, and unnecessary this per se standard is — and it is — it is necessary from one perspective: political. Polling shows that over 60% of the “squares” one needs to pass a legalization initiative are more inclined to support it with the per se standard, while around 10% would oppose it because of the standard. When you get a six-to-one support bump from a policy change, you go with it, if you want to win.
And ultimately, you can wish for perfection, but to move forward we must win. Medical marijuana cannot possibly cover every deserving patient — I’ve known hospice patients who could not legally access it. Lives are lost or drastically altered every day over prohibition of marijuana. It is not something you can just wait around for the perfect opportunity to change or even the oughtta-be-better opportunity to change. There have been but eight previous statewide attempts to legalize marijuana that have gone before the voters in just five states over 494 possible opportunities in 42 years of Drug War prior to this year. California doesn’t get that chance this time around after a tiny minority helped defeat their shot with Prop 19, but two (and possibly three) states have the chance to be the first domino that begins to topple prohibition.
I don’t know about you, but I just couldn’t cast my vote along with the Drug Czar in support of continuing prohibition.
* This is not like testing positive on a pee test, where you might have smoked pot a week ago and still come up dirty. That’s metabolites. This is active THC, and it is the impairing molecule that gets you high.