OLYMPIA – Marijuana activists say 2012 is the year they have been waiting for. Citing growing national support for marijuana legalization, activists appear confident that young voters, their key demographic, will turn out to support a reform measure — or measures. The potential problem: activists continue to dispute how laws for recreational and medical use should be changed. So far, several competing initiative campaigns have emerged. One measure is already headed for the November ballot. Initiative 502 has gathered enough signatures. The initiative would make Washington the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The caveat: any use of the drug would still be considered illegal under federal law. Under the initiative, adults 21 and older could possess no more than an ounce of dried marijuana, 72 ounces of liquids containing marijuana, or 1 pound of a solid product infused with marijuana, such as brownies or cookies. The measure would not change Washington’s medical marijuana law, which allows doctors to recommend but not prescribe the drug to treat intense chronic pain and complications related to cancer and a number of other diseases. But proponents say the initiative would create new arrest protections for patients seeking medical marijuana. A private chain of supply regulated by the state would be set up under the initiative. It would create a license system for growers, processors and retailers who would pay a 25 percent excise tax on their sales to raise revenue for substance-abuse prevention, research, health care and education. The Liquor Control Board would be in charge of regulation and licensing. “I-502 would be a more comprehensive response to our state’s marijuana laws,” said Campaign Director Alison Holcomb, comparing the initiative to other marijuana measures. Holcomb’s initiative rivals disagree.
An alternative measure called the “Cannabis Child Protection Act” was recently filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Proponents call the measure a more reasonable alternative to I-502. “It doesn’t harm the public in the way that I-502 would,” said campaign spokesman Don Skakie. Skakie sees a number of shortcomings for marijuana users under the I-502 plan. Perhaps the most glaring problem, Skakie said, is the limit I-502 would impose on the concentration of THC — the drug’s active chemical substance — in a driver’s bloodstream. That limit would be 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Heavier users have a higher tolerance and can drive just fine under levels beyond the limit established in I-502, he said. In contrast, Skakie said the initiative he backs would not establish a limit for THC levels in a driver’s bloodstream. “There’s no per-se limit because there’s no science to back it,” he said. The “Cannabis Child Protection Act” would allow adults 21 or older to grow or possess marijuana at home for medical or recreational use. Anyone younger than that would be barred from access to the drug except for medical or spiritual use with the approval of the person’s parent or guardian. “There’s no age limit on health,” Skakie said. Modeling marijuana policy after laws regarding alcohol possession, the initiative imposes no limitations on how much marijuana a person 21 or older could possess. It also creates a series of graduated misdemeanor penalties for minors in unlawful possession of marijuana. Holcomb said she suspects this would find hard opposition from voters. “Philosophically, I don’t think anyone should be treated as a criminal for using marijuana,” she said. But she added that voters would be concerned that the graduated system would open the door for greater risk of marijuana use among youth. Going in a different direction, Mimi Meiwes, a former registered nurse, also recently filed a counter-initiative to I-502 called the “Safe Cannabis Act.”
Meiwes’s initiative focuses only on medical marijuana by decriminalizing the drug for patients, providing them and health care providers with arrest protections related to the use of medical marijuana. “People’s health should come first,” she said. Meiwes suffers from chronic nausea and vomiting as a complication of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a disease that causes kidney failure. Medical marijuana settles her system enough to let her eat. However, being on the drug prevents her from getting the critical kidney transplant she needs to survive, she said. “Basically, I’m going to die because I’m a cannabis patient,” Meiwes said. But the initiative could be a life saver for people like her, Meiwes said. In addition, it would also create a legal separation between marijuana and hemp to redefine hemp as an agricultural product. Another initiative called the “Medical Cannabis Reform and Control Act” was recently filed by former Seattle Weekly contributor Philip Dawdy, a co-author of the initiative. His measure would create a state-licensed system of private medical marijuana growers and cooperatives to sell medical cannabis. Dawdy said the initiative is not meant to compete with I-502. State laws on medical marijuana access and arrest protection for medical marijuana patients are unclear, Dawdy said. The initiative will clarify the laws to ensure that the federal government will see that medical cannabis users in the state are following state law, he said. However, the ultimate solution is for the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a drug with accepted medical use. These last three initiatives are still early in the process, but signature gathering should begin soon. Dawdy said he is unsure whether his will pick up enough support to go on the ballot. If it does, he has some concerns about how successful it would be if juxtaposed with one or more other marijuana initiatives. “Traditionally, when you have two loosely related initiatives on the ballot at once, they tend to pull each other down,” Dawdy said. If more than one of the initiatives goes on the ballot and passes in November, the final decision on which one would become law would be settled in court or in the Legislature by a two-thirds vote of support for one of the measures, said David Ammons, the communications director for the Secretary of State’s office. To get their initiatives on the ballot, sponsors need to submit at least 241,153 signatures from registered voters by July 6.
via : oregonlive
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