An internal clash among Washington marijuana activists now threatens to boil over into the 2012 election. The fight comes down to those supporting a full legalization measure slated for the November ballot and other pot activists, primarily medical-marijuana supporters, who are attempting to block the measure from reaching the ballot—while characterizing some of the out-and-out legalization supporters as "evil" and "cuckold bitches without balls."
"The disagreement right now is too superheated—we're not fighting Al Qaeda, we are fighting each other," laments Philip Dawdy, a spokesman and political director for the Washington Alternative Medicine Alliance, which has stood on the sidelines of the escalating battle.
But the two groups may soon get a splash of cool water from lawmakers in Olympia.
First, the quick and dirty backstory: On December 29, a campaign called New Approach Washington submitted enough signatures, by most early estimates, to place the country's most sweeping marijuana initiative before state voters this fall.
This group, led by prestigious public-health professionals and prosecutors, has banded together—and raised more than $1 million—to pass a measure that would tax and legalize marijuana for adults. If they succeed, the measure could stop roughly 10,000 state pot arrests a year. To help persuade voters, the measure applies stiff penalties to anyone caught driving with more than five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood (attempting to approximate the .08 blood alcohol limit). That sort of provision, Initiative 502 sponsors believe, would neutralize criticisms fired at previous failed legalization initiatives in other states.
But as the petitions were being delivered to election workers, certain medical marijuana activists (including one person in a skull mask) held signs in protest of the measure. This group, called Patients Against I-502, says the DUI provision would incriminate patients who are driving, even if they're not impaired. For this reason, they're protesting the initiative, regardless of its overall political advantages.
Now, to quell the infighting and ultimately support legalization, two lawmakers are crafting legislation they intend to introduce when the legislature convenes on January 9 that would give pot-using patients legal shelter. A bill from state senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) would exempt patients from DUI convictions solely for the presence of THC. Instead, "proof of actual impairment is required," according to a memo she circulated. Meanwhile, Representative Roger Goodman (D-45) intends to include a similar provision in a bill that more broadly addresses alcohol DUIs.
"It's not about the substance, it is about impairment," Goodman explains.
The anti-I-502 group responded to the news, saying, "We are encouraged that lawmakers are taking our concerns seriously and doing something to address the problem."