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Washington: Marijuana Regulation Measure Certified For 2012 Ballot

Thursday, 02 February 2012

Washington: Marijuana Regulation Measure Certified For 2012 BallotOlympia, WA: State election officials on Friday approved a statewide measure for the November ballot that seeks to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana for adults.

Sponsored by New Approach Washington, the measure -- Initiative 502 -- will technically first go before state lawmakers. If legislators fail to endorse the measure, then it will go directly before the voters this fall.

New Approach Washington collected over 350,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify I-502 for this year's ballot. Backers of I-502 include two former US attorneys -- John McKay from the George W. Bush administration and Kate Pflaumer who held the job under President Clinton -- as well as Seattle's former FBI agent-in-charge Charles Mandigo.

If enacted, the measure would remove state criminal and civil penalties regarding the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults age 21 or over. It would not alter existing state prohibitions regarding the private cultivation of cannabis for non-medical patients.

I-502 also seeks to enact statewide regulations allowing for the commercial production and sale of marijuana to adults in state licensed stores. The measure does not amend any existing regulations regarding the possession or cultivation of marijuana by qualified patients, who are already permitted under state law to grow up to 15 plants and possess up to 24 ounces of cannabis.

If passed, I-502 would also impose new per se traffic safety standards for anyone over age 21 who operates a motor vehicle with detectable levels of active THC in blood above 5ng/ml. (The presence of inactive THC metabolites in blood or urine would not qualify as a violation under the proposed law.) The controversial provision would lower the legal standard necessary in Washington for a criminal DUI cannabis conviction from one that requires the state to show recency of marijuana use and a positive relationship between that use and behavioral impairment to one that merely requires prosecutors to prove that a defendant operated a motor vehicle with trace levels of THC in his or her blood. I-502 will not lower the probable cause requirements that must presently be met before the state can legally demand a suspect's blood.

To date, few states have enacted such per se standards for THC because its presence at low levels in blood is viewed by some experts to be an inconsistent predictor of behavioral impairment, particularly in more frequent consumers who may potentially test positive for residual THC levels in their blood for periods of time exceeding any period of acute impairment.

The Washington state Democratic Party has endorsed I-502, as has the King County Bar Association, among other groups.

For more information about I-502, please visit New Approach Washington online at: http://www.newapproachwa.org/home.







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