Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Legalized marijuana has arrived, but will it last?

Post by Brian O'Neill on Nov. 10, 2012 at 11:31 am with 25 Comments »
November 10, 2012 1:58 pm

“A solid majority” is how the Trib’s most recent article (11/7) described the passage of I-502. For recreational pot aficionados, Tuesday’s election results provided much cause for celebration.

Courtesy of

While some might be tempted to mark the occasion by sharing a bong among friends, I would suggest reading the aforementioned article first. It clearly outlines some of the new guidelines stipulated by I-502, beginning with the date of the new law’s enactment: Dec 6, 2012.

Also included are: the legal limits for personal use- one ounce for people 21 and over; the DUI limitations, a complex restriction that should be read ad nauseum by anyone considering toking and driving; the explicit restriction against using marijuana in public.

It is this latter rule that could provoke future backlash. Just as no one wants to walk down a city street past drunks guzzling malt liquor out of 40 ounce cans, no one should have to pass through a billowing cloud of pot smoke on a stroll through the park. Tobacco users can attest to public ire against second hand smoke, but marijuana also has a pungent aroma almost as bad as the reek of a skunk wafting through an open car window on a hot day. Obviously, I’m not a fan.

But…many people who have no use for marijuana, myself included, nevertheless voted yes on I-502. We did so under the assumption that, a) there was a hint of hypocrisy in legalized alcohol and prohibited marijuana; b) there was an untapped source of taxation going to waste; and c) there was a good chance legalization could have a positive impact on public safety, both here and across our southern border. Oh, and d) The current legal model hasn’t worked out so well.

In all fairness, supporters of I-502 should be commended for crafting a tightly knit piece of legislation that, at least according to a majority of Washingtonians, was worthy of passage. Their efforts were the culmination of decades spent passionately educating voters on the efficacy of medical marijuana and the overblown concerns of recreational use.

The road to legalization, however, has not emerged from the woods. Yes, there is the threat of a federal injunction, a legal action that could block the new law’s passage. There is a further possibility that federal agents could demonstrate their displeasure by raiding each and every location used as a collective garden, dispensary, or grow-op.

In my mind, though, the real hurdle for a stabilized program of legalization is less visible. That hurdle is one of public perception, and whether or not it presents a future problem depends upon the behavior of the average recreational marijuana user. Based on my experience, that demographic defines pot smokers who relished breaking the law as much as the high, and who took no interest in the painstaking process of legalization. You might also recognize them as the first “patients” to obtain prescription cards based on mythical health problems; they were the unethical “medical professionals” who dispensed said prescriptions with a wink and a nod; and they were the card holders who used their growing privileges (of up to 15 plants) to cash in on the narcotics trade

That is the demographic that must be controlled if the hard-working marijuana advocates behind I-502 hope to see the new law still in place years from now. They will need to reach out and educate the obnoxious criminals whose only goal is to make money and relive the fictional version of life in a Cheech and Chong movie.

For now, Washington seems willing to give the new law a try. With proper guidelines and responsible behavior, legalization could boost taxes, lower incarceration costs and provide more freedoms for citizens. Fair warning, though- if our streets begin to resemble a set from “Up in Smoke”, I-502’s solid majority will be back at the polls to clean up the mess.

Leave a comment Comments → 25
  1. Highlander420 says:

    You still want to blame patients, providers and consumers for the problem instead of putting the blame where it rightly belongs: the laws.

    So it ok for you and your friends to use and grow cannabis and make money, but not a “hippie”?

    “Cheech and Chong stoners” are not and have never been a threat to anyone. There’s no major carnage on the highways from cannabis only consumers.

    Can we play jazz music in your reality of cannabis legalization?

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    So, Mr. Highlander420, is it? How original.

    As I mentioned in this column, I voted Yes on I-502, so clearly we both feel the law was in need of correction. However, the prior laws, regardless of your views on them, were still the law of the land. Just because there was some gray area (whereby legitimate patients were allowed to obtain cannabis for, say, cancer treatment) should not allow any and all recreational abusers to jump on board. That’s precisely why those of us who do not use pot do not trust your motivations.

    I don’t use pot, don’t grow pot and certainly don’t make money from it in any way. I did, however, grow very tired of arresting people for smoking pot, unless they were driving, or worse, crashing. I witnessed enough of those crashes, whether you choose to believe it or not.

    Lastly, legalization is already here, and the reality is there in I-502’s language. Did you even read it? Based on your comments, I’m not even sure you read my column.

  3. rivitman says:

    Now law enforcement can begin the process of turning potheads into pedestrians. Bravo.

    And employers have more opportunity’s to make them unemployed. +1.

  4. As a pedestrian I’m going to move quickly out of the way of
    any car in a purple haze. The whole thing is a terrible mess.

  5. vonnieglen says:

    We have been innundated with the message for so long from the media and users that smoking marijuana is harmless that most people now believe it. I hope that as this law goes into effect that at least some effort will be made to educating the public as to the risks… especially to their cardiovascular systems. At this time most of the evidence suggests that injesting (eating) marijuana is far safer than smoking it specially for older folks. Is it wise to pass a law that will encourage marijuana’s use without allocating substantial funds for educting people about potential risks?


    “Marijuana increases heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking; this effect can last up to 3 hours. In one study, it was estimated that marijuana users have a 4.8-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug.5 This may be due to increased heart rate as well as the effects of marijuana on heart rhythms, causing palpitations and arrhythmias. This risk may be greater in aging populations or in those with cardiac vulnerabilities.”

  6. vonnieglen says:

    Oh and I realize that the innitiative was worded in a way that suggests a substantial portion of the funds collected will be used for “education”. I will believe that when I see it! A large part of the argument people who talked to me supporting the innitiative was that the state will be collecting “billions” of dollars in taxes. Education about hazards was definately not a priority among those that contacted me. In fact not one seemed to believe that there are any hazards and when I brought it up they became irritated with me. So I do not believe that there actually will be any sincere effort to “educate” the public.

  7. kesterling2003 says:

    Perhaps you might need to consider that smoking is not required to gain the benefits of cannabis, whether for medicinal need or just for enjoyment.

    Any potential health hazards due to smoking whether direct or “second hand” are not the hazards of cannabis, but of smoking.

 Vaporization is proven safe,  less expensive, and preferred by patients over smoking by a margin of 7:1 in peer reviewed research published in 2007.

    If it’s just the smell of the smoke that bothers you I don’t think it would be hard to come to an agreement to keep the act of smoking it illegal. The popularity of the act of smoking cannabis has already dropped off a cliff and it’s not that hard to find people who quit smoking it years ago without quitting choosing to enjoy it. Toward this end the possession of paraphernalia laws are working against public health. How can vaporizers which can cost hundreds of dollars ever hope to compete with rolling papers when the person choosing to enjoy cannabis knows that the police will steal the vaporizer if they become aware of it?

    If you don’t like the smell of cannabis smoke you should be pleased that the Washington police are no longer allowed to steal peoples’ vaporizers.

  8. kesterling2003 says:

    vonnieglen, you’ve got to be kidding, using the Mittleman study. First of all that 4.8x increase in the risk of heart problems meant that the risk was 1 in 100,000. The other problem with the Mittleman study is that the 9 potheads who were involved in his study were obese tobacco smokers.

    All a regular user needs to do to see the entire claim is nonsense is to take their pulse a couple of dozen times. The reality is that the increase in heart rate is something that newbies suffer. Well, unless your willing to claim that my 78 is some order of magnitude larger than what it would be were I to choose to not enjoy cannabis.

    At some point I hope that you realize that you’ve been sold a bill of goods by the con artists of prohibition. BTW, where’s the follow up studies? Why am I the one linking to the actual study while you link to the government generated propaganda about the study? Why is it that you people will talk about percentage increase in risk without bothering to actually quantify the risk? Every year on my birthday one of my sisters-in-law gives me a Powerball ticket. If I go out and buy 5 more I can increase my chances of winning 5 fold, but I still wouldn’t have the chance of the proverbial snowball in Hades.
    quoted from study linked above:

    “In summary, smoking marijuana is a rare trigger of acute myocardial infarction and may pose a health risk to patients with established coronary artery disease and perhaps to individuals with multiple coronary risk factors. Understanding the mechanism by which marijuana causes infarction may provide insight into the triggering of myocardial infarction by this and other, more common stressors. “

  9. SandHills says:

    The dilemma is already surfacing in regards to UW stating weed smoking will still be banned on campus (i.e. state property).

    This goes along with same-sex marriages when one goes into the Social Security office to claim benefits derived from their same-sex spouse…or moves to a state where same-sex marriage is not allowed.

    I would gather that in the case of both of these issues, it will mirror the Red State / Blue State political map.

    Quite a pickle indeed.

  10. Brian O'Neill says:

    Good points on smoking, kesterling. I would point out, however, that no police officer ever “stole” marijuana paraphernalia. When an object is illegal, it is confiscated.

  11. “I would point out, however, that no police officer ever “stole” marijuana paraphernalia. When an object is illegal, it is confiscated. ”

    For the last several years, the standard practice of cops raiding dispensaries in California is that they go in, usually without a valid warrant, and sometimes no warrant at all. They take everything of value that they can carry and don’t leave any receipts to show what they have taken. They smash everything of value that they can’t carry. In many, if not most, cases, they don’t even bother to file any criminal charges or other court papers.

    I could go on, such as the story of the sheriff in Arkansas who has so many confiscated cars around his house that his dog can’t find the front porch. (as reported by the local newspaper)

    The difference between “stolen” and “confiscated” is minor, at best.

  12. stateless says:

    1. People are criminals because of the law and nothing else when it comes to cannabis.
    2. I-502 makes me favor the black market once again. When I have been hoping, working and fighting for legalization for 20 years. I have suffered at the wrong end of prohibition many times. I am not making a dime of cannabis. Yet I would much rather go to the streets rather than worry about all of the dumb regulations behind I-502. Taxes aside, the other regulations behind 502 are silly. I doubt I will be alone in this.
    3. As for unscrupulous doctors and citizens pretending to need pot for medicinal reason. That is dumb. Pot is beneficial on so many levels that pretty much everyone qualifies. The people are not wrong for wanting cannabis, regardless of who they need to get permission from. Stress is the number 1 killer, and pot relieves stress. Therefore everyone qualifies IMHO
    4. “They will need to reach out and educate the obnoxious criminals whose only goal is to make money and relive the fictional version of life in a Cheech and Chong movie.” With as conservative as Washington is, and with a dominate farming community, it is going to be harder to hold on to I-502’s provisions based on just the socialism alone. Washington state is not a huge fan of socialism as a whole. Meaning forcibly taking means from one person and redistributing inefficiently to others. If I-502 ever loses ground, or gets changed it will be because of the socialism and the DUI provisions, not just uneducated obnoxious criminals making a bad name for legalization.
    There is a lot working against I-502, but I don’t think its what you think it is.

    I am dismayed by I-502’s specifics, but I am glad that the conversation has started. I just hope we continue to educate and promote freedom.

    Want to know where people that I know go for weed when they don’t live in a Medical Marijuana state?

    Look up “The Silk Road Market Place”

  13. vonnieglen, the legalizers were the ones who put the most comprehensive research on the health effects online in the first place. You can find the full text of every major government commission on the subject from around the world over the last 100 years at under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

    The sum of their conclusions is that marijuana just is not a significant threat to individual or public health, and certainly nothing in comparison with other health hazards such as alcohol, tobacco, and cheeseburgers.

    But that never had anything to do with the marijuana laws, anyway. Now, if you are worried about mj turning people into bats, then we have a real problem on which the marijuana laws were based. See for a short version of the lunacy that created the marijuana laws.

  14. “You might also recognize them as the first “patients” to obtain prescription cards based on mythical health problems; they were the unethical “medical professionals” who dispensed said prescriptions with a wink and a nod;”

    This rather presumes a lot of things. For one, it presumes that you have some standard for telling who is “legitimate” and who isn’t. So let’s start with defining your standard so we know exactly who you are talking about.

    How much pain, exactly, is required? How do we measure that?

    Also, you can get a prescription for NSAIDs (aspirin, Tylenol, etc.) from any doctor just by telling them that you have pain. The doctor doesn’t even have to see you. NSAIDs kill about 3,000 people per year, as opposed to none for marijuana. So, if you can get a prescription for a drug that kills thousands just by asking, then what should be the standard for a drug that poses no risk of death?

    I have asked lots and lots of people with your opinion for their standards on who deserves medical weed and who doesn’t. To date, not one of them has been able to articulate any such standard. In California, the standard is that a doctor decided it was appropriate. That is the end of the discussion — and that is the way it should be.

    Think about it. Do you really want me condemning you because you took a medicine I didn’t think you deserved?

    Not that it was any of your business, anyway. Not that you had access to any significant number of medical records on which to base your decision, anyway. Not that you had the medical expertise to make an informed judgment, even if it was your business, and you had access to the medical records, anyway.

    The bottom line here is that you, like a lot of other people, bought an urban legend. In fact, you have no basis for making any such statement, other than what you read in the newspaper.

    Just FYI, there is a good deal of research on who gets these medical marijuana letters and the evidence simply doesn’t agree with your presumptions. Dr. Tom O’Connell has done extensive surveys of thousands of them.

  15. Highlander420 says:

    Brian O’Neill,

    I chose this screen name after being raided in 2010 when living in the Okanogan Highlands. My real name is John Novak.

    “Just because there was some gray area (whereby legitimate patients were allowed to obtain cannabis for, say, cancer treatment) should not allow any and all recreational abusers to jump on board. That’s precisely why those of us who do not use pot do not trust your motivations.”

    I guess that’s the point…I don’t see how growing cannabis for patients or personal use as something that requires your trust. If you start with the opinion that prohibiting people from growing it for any reason is unconstitutional on the face of it, the only thing out of line then is the law, not the people growing, selling, using.

    I-502 creates another grey area for “recreational” users to make money, yet leaves medical users out of being able to do so. I guess I don’t understand the morals there at all.

    “I witnessed enough of those crashes, whether you choose to believe it or not.”

    The statistics aren’t there to back you up. I’ve been looking for cannabis only accidents or DUIs, but have yet to find any. Two weeks ago, I talked with Karl Sloan, prosecutor for Okanogan County after a trial on a cannabis patient. I asked him if he could provide me with any statistics on arrests, prosecutions, crashes, fatalities from cannabis only situations. He said the state does not keep track of “cannabis only” highways stats. Maybe you know otherwise. Until then, I don’t think the problem is as widespread as we are being led to believe.

    “Lastly, legalization is already here, and the reality is there in I-502′s language.”

    It is decriminalization of adult possession of an ounce under state law. It is decrim until the controlled substances act is dealt with. Once cannabis is removed from that, then we can talk about using that word.

  16. notSpicoli says:

    “I’ve been looking for cannabis only accidents or DUIs, but have yet to find any.”

    John, Let me assist you…most recently
    November 10, 2012 at 12:07 PM
    CHENEY, Wash. — A local teenager now faces vehicular assault charges after his SUV rolled and his five passengers were hurt.
    The crash happened around 10:15 p.m. …
    Crews arrived on scene to find a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder in a wheat field after it rolled off the road.
    Two of the six teenagers in the Pathfinder were ejected in the crash. One of them, a 17-year-old girl, had to be flown by MedStar to a local hospital for critical injuries. Medics transported the other teens.
    The sheriff’s office says the 16-year-old driver was smoking marijuana before the wreck. Marijuana was allegedly found in the vehicle, as well. According to the deputies’ investigation, the driver was speeding at the time of the crash.
    The driver was arrested for vehicular assault. Investigators must wait about six weeks for results of his blood tests.
    The 17-year-old girl remains in the ICU. The other passengers suffered only minor injuries.
    The road was closed for about five hours.” (Source NWCN)

  17. Highlander420 says:

    That is a single incident and there’s no proof that cannabis caused it at this point based solely on what you just posted. You might have an answer in 6 weeks.

    So far, I have only heard of two incidents over the last two years that may have a relationship to cannabis impairment and both of them involved teens.

    Show me statistics over a decade, then you might have something. Until then, there’s nothing out there to prove we need a per se limit like alcohol.

  18. tacomajoe says:

    What else did the teens do before the collision you allege is because of the great weed? Eat at McDonald’s? Maybe we can pin the collision on Big Macs, too.

    FACT – no one has EVER gotten stoned and caused the sort of mayhem caused by drunks.

  19. Brian O'Neill says:

    One of the reasons I agreed to write this column is the general lack of understanding of my profession. So many people assume they know what it’s like because it’s on television, because they have seen police officers in public or because they have been involved in an investigation of some sort. This myopic viewpoint has allowed people to “know things”, to “cite facts” about circumstances with which they have only peripheral knowledge at best. That is why I almost always limit my writing to topics with which I have significant personal experience.

    Thus, I can say from firsthand experience that abusing marijuana makes one unfit for driving, and that – despite any study to the contrary – it is a factor in dangerous collisions. How many? I don’t know. Too many? Absolutely.

    I’m not sure why this is still a topic for discussion, now that I-502 has passed. Those who respect the law will follow it, and those who don’t, well, they’ve always been out there doing what they want anyway.

  20. Highlander420 says:

    “Despite any studies to the contrary, marijuana has been a contributing factor in major collisions. I have seen it and so has any cop who has spent a few years on the job. How many? I don’t know. Too many? Absolutely.”

    Then you should have no problem PROVING it. Show us the stats is all I am asking.

    “I’m not sure why this is still a topic for discussion, however.”

    Because YOU wrote about it and asked for comments. And because unimpaired drivers WILL be convicted, even the ones “respecting” it.

  21. notSpicoli says:

    Is marijuana harmless? No
    Does prohibition cause significantly more harm than marijuana? Yes
    Is there any evidence that marijuana prohibition will ever be an effective public policy? No
    Is it possible for adults to use marijuana responsibly? Yes
    Should those who use cannabis medicinally have safe access? Yes
    Should teens use marijuana (or any intoxicant (and Big Macs are not an intoxicant) and then drive? No
    Should adults whose driving causes law enforcement to stop them and whose behavior shows evidence of impairment face the consequences? Yes

    These tenets are the basis of a reasoned, measured, strictly regulated policy that is reflected in I-502. It is the most conservative way possible to do something radical. I am proud of our state for committing to it and for my own personal part in bringing it about. It is now our law. The time for the pre-election arguments is over. Can we make I-502 work? If given the opportunity, we can.

    I hope we will be afforded the chance to try and the will to implement its provisions.

    Keith Henson, Director
    Pierce County NORML

  22. simonsjs says:

    Spicoli you say marijuana isn’t harmless. Tell us how it isn’t harmless. Spicoli the article you presented actually tells why the accident occurred, SPEED. Yet you claim it’s marijuana that caused it. Just more BS from those who really don’t know. The fact you represent NORML is disparaging at the least.

    Brian O’neill, You may have seen a lot as a cop but you offer NO PROOF whatsoever that pot caused any accident. And what do you consider marijuana Abuse? Someone who simply uses it? Or do you have another version of abuse?

  23. commoncents says:

    simonsjs – the fact that you deliberately omitted a contributing factor to this crash is exactly why I voted against this intitiative. Too many people believe that they drive “better” while stoned. Was marijuana use the sole factor or cause in the case brought forth by NotSpicoli? No…but then again neither was speed. It was a combination of factors (stoned driver, speed, a dip in the road followed by a small hill, 2 friends in the back seat playing ro-sham-bo…the possibilities could be endless) that came together at the same time all resulting in an inattentive driver who was not able to control his vehicle. Bottom line is that there are those who drive impaired and there are those who drive stupid. We can’t legislate stupid but we can legislate impaired. Don’t be both…

  24. simonsjs says:

    What science do you have to back up your statement that driving after marijuana use makes one an impaired driver?
    Speed and inexperience were most likely the contributing factors in the crash yet simply because there was marijuana in the vehicle, marijuana now is to blame. Ludicrous at best!

  25. vonnieglen says:

    It is interesting to me how many many here will deny that breathing marijuana smoke is dangerous to one’s health in any way. The same people will deny that the effects of marijuana affect people’s judgement and ability to drive or operate heavy equipment also. There is a term for this type of belief system… self delusion.

    For many marijuana obviously has effects that they believe are worth the risks. People tend to be poor at risk assesment. These same effects are what can make it dangerous when mixed with driving or tasks that require a keen mind. Do you really want to have the lawyer representing you in a case that may put you behind bars for years to be high on marijuana. Do you really want bus drivers or firefighters or police to be high on marijuana while they are doing their jobs?

    And lets get real people… do you really believe that marijuana smoke is less harmful to your lungs and internal organs than cigartette smoke? Come on… that is just silly and everyone knows it.

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