SEATTLE — Backers of an effort to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use in Washington state submitted more than 340,000 signatures to try to qualify their initiative on Thursday, a move protested by some legalization supporters who say the proposal harms medical marijuana patients.
About a dozen protesters carried signs that read “Legalize, not penalize,” and shouted as members of New Approach turned in signatures for Initiative 502 to the Legislature.
“New Approach, telling lies, we don’t want your DUIs,” the protesters chanted, occasionally interrupting the supporters’ efforts to speak to reporters.
The protesters, especially medicinal marijuana users, took issue with an element of the initiative that would make it illegal for a motorist to have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis.
“I don’t care if they legalize it, put it in liquor stores. I don’t care if they sell it on street corners and I have to work for a living, that’s cool. What bothers me is they make me a criminal every time I get behind the wheel,” said Michael Allison of Left Coast Cannabis.
Ric Smith is using marijuana while he undergoes dialysis. He had his blood tested after treatment.
“I go to dialysis. I take marijuana because of the cramping and the nausea,” he said. “So after the 5 hour abstinence, I was still 33. Illegal to drive home.”
Proponents insists this is a correctable problem and hope it doesn’t derail the entire initiative.
“What Americans realize is that the war on drugs is not working, we know that it’s a failure,” said Alison Holcomb of New Approach.
Holcomb and fellow proponents of the initiative say not only would legalizing marijuana allow police to concentrate on more important matters, it would also bring in about $215 million a year for the state budget.
Once the initiative goes to the Legislature, lawmakers have to take action during the upcoming 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 9 or the measure automatically goes to the November ballot.