Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper admitted in a new interview with the Seattle Weekly
that law enforcement officers in Washington state will likely be more vigilant in trying to apprehend and arrest drivers under the influence of marijuana if I-502, a limited legalization initiative, is approved by state voters in November.
But Stamper, who now heads up Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), said he believes that a major breakthrough in the nationwide push for marijuana law reform like I-502 would be worth the trade-off, reports Keegan Hamilton at Seattle Weekly.
Stamper, who was the top cop in Seattle during the infamous WTO riots in 1999, now serves on the advisory board of both LEAP and of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), both of which have endorsed I-502
in a “while holding their noses
” kind of way.
|Norm Stamper, LEAP: “It’s time for the states to stand up to the federal government”|
Stamper said that law enforcement opposition to the initiative—as opposed to opposition from medical marijuana patients, who are concerned about the strict, per se blood THC limits included in the DUI portion of the bill—is largely a throwback to the old “Devil’s Weed” propaganda campaigns.
“It just strikes me as a modern version of reefer madness,” Stamper said. “It’s important that the people of states that are so inclined speak up and let the federal government know we’re squandering huge sums of money that could be invested in state programs.”
Many in Washington’s medical marijuana community are concerned about the five nanogram per milliliter cutoff level, above which drivers will automatically be guilty of DUI. Medicinal cannabis patients, many of whom must use must larger amounts than recreational users in order to achieve therapeutic effects, often wake up unimpaired in the morning with higher blood levels of THC than 5 ng/ml.
Under current Washington state law, police must prove impairment to convict a driver of driving under the influence of marijuana. That would no longer be the case if I-502 passes; any cop who claimed he “reasonably believed” you were “impaired” could then force a blood draw—and if you show up over 5 ng/ml, they will convict your ass, impaired or not.
Even worse, I-502 has zero tolerance for drivers under 21, a completely unscientific provision under which they will be considered guilty of “marijuana DUI” if they show up for ANY amount of THC in their blood.
|Allen St. Pierre, NORML: “We fully recognize that the per se DUI marijuana provisions in I-502 are arbitrary, unnecessary, and unscientific, and we argued strongly with the sponsors for provisions that would require proof of actual impairment to be shown before one could be charged with a traffic safety offense”|
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, while endorsing I-502, was less than enthusiastic about its ill-considered, scientifically unsupported DUI provisions.
“We fully recognize the per se DUI marijuana provisions in I-502 are arbitrary, unnecessary, and unscientific, and we argued strongly with the sponsors for provisions that would require proof of actual impairment to be shown before one could be charged with a traffic safety offense,” St. Pierre said when NORML reluctantly endorsed the initiative
Addressing concerns that the federal government would nip Washington state’s proposed marijuana stores in the bud if I-502 passes, Stamper optimistically said he suspected the feds would leave the stores and their employees alone.
Stamper said he believes the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies would continue to target illicit marijuana dealers in Washington if I-502 passes, but otherwise the Department of Justice would be grudgingly tolerant of the new pot shops and let challenges to the law unfold in court. (Contrast his optimism to the recent federal shutdowns of medical marijuana dispensaries in California, Washington, Montana, and Colorado, and you’ll see there’s plenty of room for argument on that point.)
Besides reframing the marijuana legalization debate nationally, Stamper said passage of I-502 would generate a deficit-easing tax windfall for Washington state’s coffers.
“It’s time for the states to stand up to the federal government,” Stamper said.