Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Tomorrow Is Pot Legalization Day in Washington


Tomorrow marijuana legalization begins to take effect in Washington. Adults 21 or older will be allowed to possess up to an ounce for personal use and consume it privately, although they will still have to obtain it from illegal sources. Unlike Colorado's Amendment 64, I-502 does not permit home cultivation, and the Washington State Liquor Control Board has until next December to adopt regulations for marijuana farms and stores. The Drug Policy Alliance comments:

There were more than 241,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Washington State over the past 25 years at a cost to the state of over $300,000,000. In 2010 alone there were 11,000 arrests for marijuana possession.  A single arrest for possession costs from $1000 to $2000 and creates a permanent criminal record that can severely limit an individual's ability to obtain housing, schooling, employment, and credit.  Tomorrow this waste of taxpayer dollars—and human potential—comes to an end.

Also taking effect tomorrow: Washington's controversial new standard for driving under the influence of marijuana, which makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a THC concentration of five or more nanograms per milliliter of blood. In the next few months we should start to get a sense of whether this per se rule is unfairly penalizing unimpaired marijuana users and whether they are worse off than they were with the old standard, which required evidence of impairment for an arrest and evidence of consumption for a conviction. The new law requires reasonable suspicion of impairment before a driver's blood can be drawn for a test.

In Colorado, meanwhile, legalization of possession (also up to an ounce) and home cultivation (up to six plants) will take effect sometime during the next month, depending on when Gov. John Hickenlooper officially proclaims the results of the Amendment 64 vote, but definitely by January 5. The state Department of Revenue has until next July to write regulations for commercial cultivation and distribution.

Looking ahead to that prospect, Boulder City Attorney Tom Carr worries that the state might start licensing pot stores before his city has its own regulations in place. As a precaution, he suggests the city ban such businesses, as Amendment 64 allows. Last night the Boulder City Council rejected that suggestion (for now, at least). Councilwoman Lisa Morzel explained that "invoking a ban would be so nondemocratic and would provoke the wrath of the public to such an extent that it would not be a good idea politically."