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The battle over marijuana has just begun in Washington
Published 11/8/2012 6:00:00 AM
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Even though the fires of the election have started to die down, the smoke has only begun to rise.

Washington now stands as one of the most progressive states in the union, taking a historic step toward ending the inefficient, irrational and unjust practice of marijuana prohibition.

In one of the most decisive results in this year’s state election, Washington voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 502, which allows people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. Beginning Dec. 6, free citizens will no longer be made criminals by choosing to consume cannabis.

While this is an absolute victory for the forces of rationality and tolerance, challenges still loom on the horizon. No one is certain how the federal government will respond, and Washington may soon face a tough legal battle against the feds. Also, I-502 has drawn criticism for restrictions on growing and use, giving even the most die-hard proponent of legalization pause.

We must be willing to fight these battles. Ending prohibition requires perseverance and dedication. Washington must remain wary and willing to continue the struggle for a more rational and just legal system. To start, we have to understand the benefits.

First, I-502 will impose restrictions on the cultivation and distribution of marijuana by setting up a three-tiered system of producers, possessors and retailers, all under the control of the Washington State Liquor Control Board. In granting licenses, WSLCB will have the right to inspect and regulate all matters of production—this means home growing will effectively stay illegal.

This is unfortunate for all those who have benefited from the previous system, but a necessary evil in order to bring regulation to the market. There is no way I-502 would have passed had it not been for this system that addresses the fears of those worried about selling inebriants to minors, and the tax revenue will be a massive gain in such a beleaguered state.

Second, the initiative set up a maligned DUI provision that many see as overreaching. I-502 establishes a marijuana DUI cut-off of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of whole blood, a threshold which can only be confirmed by a blood draw. Opponents of I-502 have characterized this as a terrible policy.

“Science has shown patients and cannabis consumers can fail (blood tests) hours and even days after they last consumed cannabis,” said Anthony Martinelli, the treasurer of Patients Against I-502 according to The Stranger.

This is actually misleading. The type of THC, called carboxy-THC, that can be detected in urine days or weeks after use is not the same as delta-9 THC, which is used as an indicator under I-502.

Even the heaviest of smokers drop below the threshold within 24 hours of imbibing, and most drop beneath the threshold within a few hours, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School.

Less than 5 nanograms per milliliter of active THC concentration serves as the dividing line between impaired and unimpaired drivers, said Alison Holcomb, campaign director for I-502 according to The Stranger.

Therefore, the greatest threat to legalization comes from the federal government. Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

“The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged,” according to a statement from the office of U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan.

Despite this, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said he believes the federal government currently “has no plans, except to talk,” according to The Seattle Times. He believes the federal government will be reassured by the I-502′s strict regulations and decide not sue.

The ‘War on Drugs’ has been an utter failure in the United States, and hopefully the federal government will see our way. We cannot continue to waste billions annually on the futility of stopping consenting adults from choosing what to do with their own bodies. Neither can we continue to make criminals out of cannabis consumers, and deprive them of opportunities for employment outside a life of crime.

By passing I-502, Washington state is leading the way toward reforming this terribly unjust system. We will weather the faults of this bill, withstand the feds and restore personal liberty and rationality to this republic.

 

-Matthew Kenyon is a senior history major from Marysville. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by opinion@dailyevergreen.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.

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