“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.
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.