Olympia, WA: A citizens’ initiative allowing for adults to legally possess personal use amounts of cannabis in private became law last week.
Fifty-six percent of voters on Election Day approved Initiative 502, permitting an adult to possess up to one-ounce of cannabis (and/or up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form) for their own personal use in private.
The new law does not amend existing criminal penalties for the personal cultivation of cannabis for non-medical purposes. Public consumption of cannabis is a civil offense punishable under the new law by a $100 fine.
Rules regarding the regulated production and sale of cannabis to adults are to be codified later next year.
A specific provision in I-502 amends the traffic safety laws by instituting a per se THC/blood standard for drivers age 21 or older who operate a vehicle with the presence of active THC in whole blood at levels above 5ng/ml. This change in law does not lower the probable cause requirements that must presently be met before the state can legally demand a suspect’s blood, which can only take place following a DUI arrest. It does amend the legal standard necessary 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 specific levels of THC in his or her blood. The former ‘effect-based’ standard will apply to those DUI suspects who test positive for THC in blood at levels below 5ng/ml.
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 trace, residual THC levels in their blood for periods of time exceeding any period of acute impairment. Occasional cannabis consumers will typically test positive for the presence of THC in the blood at levels above 5 ng/ml only for a period of one to three hours after smoking.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.