Bruce Ramsey has an editorial in the Seattle Times supporting Initiative 502 to legalize marijuana, even going so far as to describe certain opponents of legalization as the marijuana industry worried "about being put out of business." Good for Ramsey, a Republican who wants to legalize the shit out of that shit, for saying his piece. But he also writes this:
There is also concern about the DUI standard. Seattle marijuana attorney Douglas Hiatt says regular users, especially medical patients, develop a tolerance. They can have more than 5 nanograms, much more, and drive safely. Under current law they won't pull a DUI unless a prosecutor can show they were impaired, but under I-502, the prosecutor doesn't have to prove that anymore. Five nanograms and you're done.
Defenders of the 5-nanogram standard use political arguments, not scientific ones. That is telling.
On that last key point in bold, I respectfully disagree with Ramsey; in fact, I respectfully think he has it flat backwards. It's the critics of I-502—not the defenders, as he calls them—who have used political, rhetorical arguments that lack a scientific basis. In contrast, the defenders of the 5 nanogram cutoff for drivers who drafted the initiative base their arguments in peer-reviewed research; not only do the studies show marijuana users drop below that level after several hours, users above that level show clear signs of impairment. See here, here, and here.
Further, this type of cutoff establishes legal parity. While you can argue, as I have before, repeatedly, that courts should be required to prove impairment behind the wheel, this sort of per se cutoff for a recreational drug is the standard in Washington State. It's exactly what our DUI law says about exceeding .08 percent blood alcohol content.
One more quibble, respectfully. Back to Ramsey:
The measure conflicts with federal law, and the feds can have it thrown out in court if they want.
Sigh. The Department of Justice may be able to overturn I-502—it may not. We simply don't know. This is a case for the highest courts.
Do I sound like a persnickety broken record? Because I am—I basically made these points in my feature story last week. But this is important: Bruce is making the opposition's arguments. And since they're (a) unfounded and (b) speculative, it helps nobody to recite them as facts. So when it comes to baseless talking points from the opposition, I respectfully—so respectfully—ask that Ramsey shut up.