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If You Care About Medical Marijuana Patients (Among Others), Support I-502

Readers of know that we've supported Initiative 502, a ballot measure to legalize and regulate marijuana in Washington State. I-502 has seen the strongest polling among the three legalization measures on state ballots this year, and has attracted significant mainstream support -- its chances of passing this Tuesday are good. The measure has also been the subject of controversy within the movement, particularly over a "per se" DUI provision some advocates believe will unfairly snare some users including patients. If you've followed our coverage of I-502 in Drug War Chronicle, including two of our recent features (here and here), you're familiar with all of this.

Today formally endorses Initiative 502. In this post I explain why we believe the measure helps, not harms, most medical marijuana patients, and defeating it would therefore harm patients; why I believe other attacks leveled against the measure to be misguided, despite some legitimate concerns; and why we at consider passage of I-502 to be critically important.

The reality facing Washington's patients today is that they may soon lose safe access to marijuana. The federal government is conducting a sustained attacked on the medical marijuana supply system in states across the nation, including Washington's, and local opponents have also stepped up their efforts. Legislation that would have authorized dispensaries, which could have provided some political cover for providers in Washington, was vetoed by the governor. Just this August the DEA sent 23 threat letters to dispensaries in Washington, only the latest of many moves against the industry. And there is no indication that DOJ under Obama or Romney will let up after the election, hope for that as we might. Washington a few years from now may have no medical marijuana supply system at all, if something doesn't change to shift the balance in our favor.

In Washington, the medical marijuana system is already a smaller one than available in some other medical marijuana states, despite courageous efforts by its leaders. Fewer patients qualify for legal protections under the list of conditions authorized under state law; it's likely that a smaller proportion of the state's residents live within easy geographic proximity to a dispensary as well. A 2011 report by See Change Strategy, prepared before the escalated federal and local crackdowns, found 11,000 dispensary customers in Washington, compared with 500,000 in California -- fewer than 1/8 as many, adjusted for the states' populations. Compared with Colorado, Washington's system -- again, before the crackdown -- served fewer than 1/14 as many people, adjusted for population.

But even those numbers understate the true depth of harm done to patients by the current system. All of us know people who suffer from conditions that could well be treatable using marijuana, but who may never find that out -- because they won't try it while it's illegal, or because their physicians aren't comfortable recommending marijuana without being able to guarantee the quality of the supply. Along with the current patients whose current safe access to marijuana may be slipping away, this other, possibly much larger group of potential patients, are also being badly harmed by the current situation -- by prohibition.

In the face of the federal onslaught, we believe a victory is needed at the ballot in order to shift the political dynamics in our favor. While some have suggested this could be accomplished in 2014, with a different initiative, that seems poorly thought out. Along with that meaning two more years and all that can happen in that time, 2014 is an off year election. That means that election turnout demographics will work against any such initiative, because off years favor the conservative voting base that leans against marijuana reform, over the liberal base that leans toward it. Funders witnessing a loss this year by a carefully regulated initiative, will in turn be unlikely to bet on a more loosely written one passing the next time. Progress of this scale -- enactment by a state's voters of actual legalization, not just medical marijuana or decriminalization, a historic first -- will probably be out of reach again until 2016. Public support for legalization in principle continues to grow and is now around 50% nationally. But while we believe support for legalization is likely to continue to grow, we don't know that it will and we can't take that for granted, especially if we don't win something. Legalization needs a victory this year.

We also believe that more people than just the currently recognized patients need the protections that legalization of possession -- and of legal sales, if I-502's state-licensed stores survive the likely federal opposition -- will provide for them. Washington had between 12,000 and 15,000 arrests per year between 2006 and 2010 -- 240,000 total marijuana arrests from 1986 to 2010. Those include minors who will still face age limit laws under I-502. But half or more of these arrests would clearly stop under the new law. A marijuana arrest is a big deal; in Washington it includes a fine and mandatory jail time in most cases. Defendants spend money on legal fees; they face restricted access to housing and college aid; they become disadvantaged in the job market.

I-502 won't undo all of this harm, but it will undo a lot of it. The characterizations opponents have made of the initiative as providing only "limited" or "modest" benefit are bogus. Even more strained is the claim some opponents have made that I-502 is not even legalization. But I-502 legalizes possession and sale of marijuana, albeit within a particular framework -- of course it's legalization. Some forms of legalization do more of what we want than other forms. Advocates make compromises, if they are effective, because they understand that that is what's needed to change things.

A final argument opponents have made is that I-502 is not legalization because federal law will preempt the state licensing system and could endanger other parts of the law. But while preemption is a risk, it's not a given -- no federal prosecutor has even tried to legally preempt a state's medical marijuana law, for example, in 16 years of them. And the same line of reasoning would say that any legalization bill passed by a state would really not be legalization, because federal prohibition is still in place. Which of course makes no sense -- and which would mean that initiatives some critics of I-502 have attempted to place on the ballot were not legalization either. Obviously our goal is to change both federal and state law.

It's possible we might have reached a different conclusion about I-502, if we were persuaded that DUI busts because of I-502 could happen commonly. But the critics have ignored key facts about the issue in order to make that case. The provision excludes the inactive but long-lingering marijuana metabolite, THC-COOH, from the reach of the law, counting only the shorter acting THC metabolite. It leaves in place the "probable cause" requirement on police of impairment being demonstrated before they can lawfully stop a driver and order a drug test. Police still need to spend time and money taking a driver to the station for a full drug test -- they can't just write a ticket and drop the drugs off for testing later.

Perhaps for these reasons, the 13 states that already have similar provisions have not seen perceptible increases in DUI busts. Yet movement opponents of I-502 scarcely acknowledge any of these points; a recent editorial by Sensible Washington treasurer Anthony Martinelli is a good example. Leaving them out skews the issue very badly. Conversely, however, one should admit that some marijuana users in Washington may get stuck with a DUI charge that they don't deserve -- and if you're one of those few people, it won't necessarily help you that there are only a few. There is a legitimate issue at stake with the DUI provision and it's a legitimate discussion to have. But it's a very different scenario than the doomsayers have presented.

It has been charged that movement opposition to I-502 is driven by the financial motivations of people profiting from medical marijuana under the current system. But while this is doubtless one thing that is going on, some of the critics of I-502 are respected advocates, including personal friends, who have never had a financial motivation for their activism. With all due respect to them, we believe they have badly misjudged the I-502 question, in at least the following ways: They have misidentified the primary threats facing medical marijuana patients. They have dramatically overestimated the realistic impact of the DUI provision -- ignoring relevant facts in order to do so. And they have underplayed the scope and significance that passage of I-502 will have, both legally and politically. endorses Initiative 502, a major step forward for the legalization movement, and a necessary step to help secure the rights of many thousands of marijuana users, including patients, and others.

[Washington's I-502 is one of three initiatives on state ballots to regulate rather than prohibit marijuana. We encourage all supportive parties, as we have before, to make phone calls to likely supportive voters in Colorado and Oregon -- for which a "phonebanking" web site has been provided by our allies -- for those in Washington to contact the campaign to volunteer in person. Links to the campaigns and to a "phonebanking" web site provided by our allies are linked to from our election resources web page at]

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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nicely played

Nicely played.

Yes on I-502

Fingers crossed for Nov 6!


i am a medical paintent and i dont beilave this crap... i wont be able to drive.. i wont be able to have as much at home so i will have to go outside when i am sick just to get medicine.... the state will tax the hell out of it and we will never see a penny... plus there are going to add more drugs to mary jane... it willl be cemicaily modified to fit the states need ...if this passes there goes all hope from my my health getting better!

Your plain wrong and paranoid

Your wrong and your paranoid. Medical marijuana patients can still follow the laws when they have a prescription. I-502 doesn't change medical marijuana laws. If you are a medical patient you can still grow or have someone grow for you.

You won't be able to drive? Why? Are you stoned 24/7? If so you shouldn't be driving anyway, no offense. Its just like people on prescription opiates. If they are taking so much that they are intoxicated they can't drive either. The law is clear if you don't smoke for about 3 hours you are fine to drive.

Adding drugs to mary jane? That is just plain paranoia. If people like you ruin this legalization effor tthe DEA will be busting in your dispensaries within a year and you won't have medicine and no one else will have legal weed either.

Pull your head out the sand!

you don't have common sense

Hey bud do you think you know what you're talking about?

Because I don't think you do. 

I'll make clear points so you can maybe use some logic.

1. if you don't smoke for about 3 hours you are find to drive? sure...becasue active THC stays for a couple days....sure dude..


2. I-502 is to lower the quality of mary jane and add more chemicals to it so people eventually stop buying/using it. 


3. You obviously don't know jack %^&& about Medical Marijuana laws, based on what you said. I do because I have one.


Pull your head out of the toilet dude. Pathetic 


Why would they add stuff MJ to get people to stop buying it ? They are taxing it for a reason !!! That would not make any sense business wise . And everyone has a MMJ Card dont feel to special .

this is out of pocket

I'm a leagal mmj patient I think the ppl who voted yes were.clearly monmoney hungrey u who say u can drive three hrs after smoking u have no f****in clue read the satistics really befor u speak litarally.voters in the stae of wa.took mmjs leagal patients rights to feel better away pretty shitty when my perscription of oxycotin will be cheaper than my mmj this is bull crap I will just pray the feds stepop in and stop this


In oder to wipe out the black market MJ has to be sold under current prices If not then the black market will thrive . And your right it is all about money the disperies dont want this law to pass cause it takes away their monpoloy that have on the weed business , thats why you have all been brain washed . WAKE UP SHEEPLE

this is out of pocket

I'm a leagal mmj patient I think the ppl who voted yes were.clearly monmoney hungrey u who say u can drive three hrs after smoking u have no f****in clue read the satistics really befor u speak litarally.voters in the stae of wa.took mmjs leagal patients rights to feel better away pretty shitty when my perscription of oxycotin will be cheaper than my mmj this is bull crap I will just pray the feds stepop in and stop this

If you care about Medicinal

If you care about Medicinal Marijuana users, VOTE NO ON I-502, or they will be given DUIDs for driving "under the impairment" days after smoking... Learn to read people and dont fall for their bull sh*t


You should learn how to read. You know nothing about the science behind this law. The law clearly states that THC only must be below 5 nanograms. When you ingest THC orally or smoke it most of it gets converted into THC metabolites within a couple hours which are NOT covered under the DUI law. This is because these metabolites are not psychoactive in most cases and don't impair your ability to drive. They are what stays in your blood and urine for days and weeks. Not THC. THC is gone within a couple hours after smoking. This is scientific FACT!


Hey does any know how to get

Hey does any know how to get licensed to grow under I 502. Tell me when and where I'll have the first legal crop ready in roughly 70 days . Real quick this is a shout out to my boy a few comments up, I only use organic nutes, so no worries about I 502 pumping chemicals into you. Nothing but the best when you smoke Bente's Bente. I was trained how to grow in Nor Cal four years ago. I plan to grow the first batch of licensed marijuana in the state of Wa. I contacted the liquor control board. They acted like I was crazy when I asked to apply for a license to grow some buds. Aren't they in control of the new found cannabis industry? I don't under stand why they haven't even updated there web site. I offer this. If someone can help me find a way to get licensed. I'll grow some og kush, purple urkle, some bubba kush, oh train wreck sucks, you'll love my train wreck. I know what to do. I am a hard worker, and I am passionate about cannabis. Please help. E-mail bentesbuds@ if you can help

Do you know?


 I heard the Cannabis Union came out and backed Obama yesterday. Been looking for info on this.



 You're awesome thank you! Sounds like that might be it, if not pretty darn close.  


This is a foot in the door. Sure I-502 is not perfect, but it had to be wrote in a way so that it would gain support by those who have never used marijuana or never thought of supporting something like this. 

If you are worried about the DUID issue, think about this, if you don't pass this, do you think it would stop the politicians from passing a law about DUID with the same wording as is it written in I-502. 

They could pass a law like that and there would be anything you could do about it. 

Vote yes on I-502. 


They could pass a law like that and would not be anything you could do about it. 

This is your chance to make history. If I-502 passes, this will be talked about for many, many years. 

You folk have a chance to make history. 

All the best. 

this is wrong

Why would our state. Go against federal law why cause there money hungery I'm a legal mmj patient if you voted yes open you're eyes u just really f***ed anybody who really uses it now it will really go back into dope deallers hands really smoke three hrs prior to driving and it will be ok really ok to clog up our courts sooo stupid really law makers smoking in the. Middle of seattle smoking I really want my children to see that by ppl who are supposed to make things right lol OPEN YOU'RE EYES YOU'RE HURTING PATIENTS NOT HELPING THEM!!!!!

what the hell are you talking about?

you make no sense. You should always proof read before submitting.

Help me get licensed. So I can grow some dank

Hello everyone. I would like to extend an offer. I have grown bud during the green rush of 03 back in Shasta Co ca. I learned from some of the best. I have seen 8lb plants that look like small trees. So the experience is there. I also propagated with aeroponics and thats the most fun and rewarding way. What I need is help. I called the liquor control board's office today. I asked to speak to a suprovisor. I asked the suprovisor how to apply for a license to grow marijuana. He chuckled and said "What"! I said." arent you folks in charge of licensing the marijuana growers"? He says " I do not know what your talking". So, no one knows how to get licensed by the state to grow. What do I do. I want to grow the finest ganja known to man. I get very scientific when I perform a grow. So if you folks help me figure out a way to grow, I promise you I will only grow the best strains. We are talking train wreck, I choose trainsreck first for a reason. It's freaking awesome. Then I'll grow some purple urkle. That stuff is bomb, then we"ll grow some og kush, talk about getting dumb. I plan to grow every strain known to man once before I die. So what's up, you in? Once I grow it, I'll sell it, and I'll even pay a 30percent tax. I plan to donate the extra five percent to feed and house the homeless, by the way I hope the homeless get an automatic 50percent off retail when they go to buy some buds, Bente's buds. Please email [email protected] or respond right here


Its going to take a year then you can apply their will be a 250 app fee but check the wslb web site some time in 2013 


Its going to take a year then you can apply their will be a 250 app fee but check the wslb web site some time in 2013 

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