Why Stop Now?By Stephanie Bishop
Last November, Washington sent a clear message to the world with the passage of Initiative 502, the measure to regulate the use, possession and sale of cannabis by adults. The bill outlined a system of distribution set to be defined by the state Liquor Board by December 2013 and set DUI standards for motorists. Many gathered together to celebrate the decriminalization of the plant by smoking it in public places and attending private parties across the state. As the proverbial smoke cloud clears, citizens are still left with many questions—and not everyone is ready to settle down with the idea of I-502 as a reality.
Consider the case of Olympia resident Arthur West. West is a registered voter and a patient impacted by the 5-nanogram per milliliter per se DUI limits established by the initiative. Last month, he filed a lawsuit contesting the legalization measure. The suit names the state and New Approach Washington, the group behind the initiative, as defendants in an effort to block enforcement of certain of I-502’s provisions—specifically the DUI limits.
“West routinely operates a motor vehicle on State roads and highways,” the lawsuit reads. “He has never been found to be responsible for an accident in his entire driving history. With the adoption of 1-502, he is in imminent danger of having his blood drawn and having charges filed against him for DUI despite the fact that at 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC, he does not demonstrate any acute signs of impairment. These adverse impacts are particular and specific, and directly and proximately result from 1-502.”
West’s suit contends that I-502 violates the state constitution, and seeks to void the initiative and bar the enforcement of its disputed provisions.
West alleges that the initiative infringes upon residents’ rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizures (thus, allegedly violating the 4thAmendment), and fails to provide for due process of law (5th Amendment). Additionally, the suit claims the fines set in the initiative for DUI violations constitute as cruel and unusual punishment (8th Amendment), and exposes state residents for prosecution since cannabis—for any reason and in any form—remains illegal under federal law.
West declined to be interviewed by CULTURE for this story.
The lawsuit also calls into question certain earmarks (or funding sources), arguing that they raise money for programs and things that have nothing to do with cannabis. The initiative—through cannabis taxes—is set to cover the costs of implementing the program as well as using funds to pay for general public health, drug abuse treatment programs, drug abuse prevention and cannabis research. Alcohol tax revenue is also similarly earmarked in Washington through state regulation.
West accuses the defendants of including these earmarks as a way to entice voters (“logrolling” or quid pro quo) to vote for the initiative.
Alison Holcomb, the drug policy director for ACLU of Washington State who was I-502’s campaign director, told Washington State Wire that West’s arguments don’t stand up.
Holcomb said “everything that is in Initiative 502 pertains to that issue (cannabis).”
Where There’s a Wheel . . .
As Initiative 502 works its way through the system, here are a few things that Washington motorists—patients and cannabis users alike—can do to protect themselves.
—When carrying cannabis in your vehicle, keep it in a smellproof container locked inside the trunk of the vehicle. Officers need to find additional probable cause to search the trunk of the car.
—Do not smoke cannabis in or around your vehicle. The smell of recently smoked cannabis could be considered probable cause for law enforcement to move forward with a search or blood test.
—Always be very polite and cooperative when dealing with enforcement officers. Many times in a criminal court case, the defendants’ actions at the time of arrest are considered in the final outcome of the case.
—Blood tests are looking for active tetrahydocannabidiol (or 11-COOH-THC). Active THC is only found when the individual has smoked or ingested cannabis recently. Wait two to four hours after smoking before operating a motor vehicle.