Students for Sensible Drug Policy endorses Initiative 502, Washington’s historic marijuana regulation ballot measure, which will make the state among the first in the nation to license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession, for persons over twenty-one years of age.
I-502 will be an important milestone in reforming the failed policies of the U.S. War on Drugs. As representatives of the population most frequently killed or maimed by impaired driving, SSDP is committed to preventing all impaired driving. However, as a group representing young people, predominantly college students, we must express our concern about the due process implications of the zero nanogram threshold and conviction for DUI for anyone under 21 years of age in the measure. Under this provision, anyone under the age of 21 accused of impaired driving — including medical marijuana patients — could be convicted of DUI if a test revealed any amount of active THC in his or her blood, regardless of actual impairment. We appreciate that I-502 distinguishes active THC from inactive metabolites that do not cause impairment that are often used as measures of past marijuana use, but we remain troubled by a standard unrelated to either actual impairment or any scientific correlation of blood level to a degree of impairment. SSDP feels that the inclusion of this language on the part of initiative drafters was misguided, and could have been avoided had they more fully consulted with groups who represent young people impacted by the War on Drugs during the drafting process. We are deeply concerned that this provision might be used as a model by other states considering similar proposals.
Despite the initiative’s flaws, SSDP recognizes that drafters of the initiative intended to mimic Washington State’s policy related to persons under 21 who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol. Taken as a whole, I-502 is sensible drug policy and represents a huge step forward. Its passage will mark a sea change in the development and implementation of rational drug policies that prioritize public health over punishment. It is not the last step in establishing a regulatory model, it is the first.