Two upcoming ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado seek to legalize marijuana in some form, but they are receiving a surprising backlash from medical marijuana advocates. And, while most people would assume that any method of legalization for weed would be a good thing, these MMJ groups say that is simply not the case.
An article in Opposing Views states that Washington’s Initiative 502 and Colorado’s Amendment 64 would regulate pot in a method similar to alcohol and tobacco, with Washington smokers being allowed to posses up to an ounce at a time and Colorado also allowing for up to six plants.
In the words of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and former U.S. Attorney John McKay, two of the initiative’s most well-known proponents, the Washington initiative would:
This measure would remove state-law prohibitions against producing, processing, and selling marijuana, subject to licensing and regulation by the liquor control board; allow limited possession of marijuana by persons aged twenty-one and over; and impose 25% excise taxes on wholesale and retail sales of marijuana, earmarking revenue for purposes that include substance-abuse prevention, research, education, and healthcare. Laws prohibiting driving under the influence would be amended to include maximum thresholds for THC blood concentration.
And, while there seem to be many positive aspects of this proposed legislation, a Washington physician named Gil Mobley has created No on I-502 to oppose the initiative, highlighting that marijuana is not being treated like alcohol or tobacco, where there are not limits on what you can possess or what you can make. He sums up:
It simply creates a legal exception for possession of an ounce and a few other minor cannabis related crimes. Under this initiative it would still be illegal for individuals to grow any amount. In addition, hemp would still not be explicitly legal, passing a joint would still be felony distribution, and a new form of prohibition will be introduced that will cause cannabis consumers to be wrongfully convicted and imprisoned (the per se DUID mandate). People under 21 have the potential to be convicted of a DUID simply for being in the presence of cannabis smoke for an extended period of time. Beyond this, the entire distribution system will be federally preempted (rendered invalid in court) due to the fact that it creates a positive conflict with our federal Controlled Substances Act (you can’t force a state to accept taxes from a federally illegal substance).
Essentially, No on I-502 doesn’t oppose legalization of marijuana, but it opposes any legislation that doesn’t take matters far enough. Still, critics of No on I-502 have accused the group, and the entire medical marijuana industry, of being motivated by profit and seeing I-502 as something that will take away much of their business. Opposing Views even rangled up a third point of view in the form of an anonymous marijuana activist, who bridged the gap of the two sides, noting:
Of course there are some bad apples that only care about profit, but they are usually weeded out (no pun intended) by patients themselves and market forces. Others are able to turn a tidy profit while still providing a valuable service to their patients. This is America. What is wrong with wanting your business to make money? As long as no one is being exploited, particularly patients, who is getting hurt? This is the only industry that is being punished by the federal government for being too successful.
When people lump all members of the industry together, it makes it that much easier for prohibitionists to dismiss calls for policy change and gives the feds carte blanche to shut them all down because they are just ‘greedy drug dealers’.
In terms of politics, I would have to say that when it comes to the opponents of I-502 within the marijuana industry, there are certainly some that are looking out for their own financial interests, while others don’t necessarily understand the initiative. Still others simply don’t care about full legalization and are convinced that they will lose their driving privileges, or think that this initiative is too restrictive in one way or another.
It is unfortunate that some within the industry do not realize that the best way to ensure safe and affordable medical access for patients is to remove criminal penalties for all adults, or that they will continue to be able to make a living under a taxed and regulated legal framework. That does not make the whole industry a sham.
In Colorado, there is not an organized movement against the proposed legislation, though many dispensary owners are worried about how the initiative could effect their business that they worked hard to create. And, if any compromise between people who work in medical marijuana, marijuana activists, and marijuana growers is to be reached, it is without a doubt that certain issues must be addressed. As it stands now, the legislation in Washington is still poised to pass, but with support slipping as November nears.
Do you support these legalization laws? Do you understand how the medical marijuana industry might object? How can both sides reach a compromise?