Now that Washington has passed Initiative 502 to legalize marijuana for non-patients, members want to know how that affects us. The reality is, the medical cannabis laws that Lifevine helped develop have not changed at all. Patients retain the right to grow and possess their medicine as they did before. The plan for State-regulated production, distribution, and heavy taxation of recreational cannabis does not directly affect us.
We predict federal prosecutors will block the plan to sell State-grown weed at inflated prices. It is unlikely the US Department of Justice will allow the State to go forward. But if somehow a miracle occurs, and 75 years of prohibition comes to an end this year, Lifevine will continue to provide top-grade medicine to its members. The guidelines recently released by the state definitely emphasize profits, not potency or purity. The price of government pot will be much higher than the medicine at our collective, and the quality will be poor, because it will be grown commercially, without stringent attention to health benefits.
It is very important to note one section of Initiative 502 that WILL be enforced creates a dangerous situation for marijuana patients. As of December 6th 2012, we are targets for DUI patrols! Thanks to the unscientific provisions of I-502, medical marijuana users could be found guilty of impaired driving, even though there may be no evidence of impairment. These new rules give police the power to convict us of DUI, based solely on levels of cannabinoids found in the blood. Patients who medicate frequently may be found guilty of a crime, even in cases where there is no actual accident, incident, or any other infraction. The State Legislature is expected to make changes to the new law in coming months. Martin Martinez and Lifevine have a strong history in marijuana politics. Lobbying efforts are underway to modify the DUI regulations, before we are all dragged into court.
Three years ago, I was driving on I-5 at night. I swiftly changed lanes to steer clear of a Washington State Patrol car that had a car pulled over on the shoulder. Eyes drawn to the police activity, I drifted into the empty HOV lane about a foot deep, for about a 20-foot stretch at 60 miles per hour. I quickly corrected my drift, but it was too late. Another set of flashing lights ignited in my rear view mirror. I was snared in a WSP DUI trap.
When I pulled over and rolled down my passenger-side window, the officer immediately recoiled. "I smell marijuana!" he declared.
I quickly produced my medical paper and replied, "It's all legal, sir". But it was futile. In a few minutes I was outside my truck, desperately trying to stand on one foot in the pouring rain, while explaining: "Doctors said I would never walk again!" and "I can't touch my nose with that hand, because my elbow was broken in a motorcycle crash years ago!" Nothing I said was of any use in forestalling the inevitable trip to the WSP Barracks. I had no choice but to "voluntarily" submit to the blood test.
My truck was towed. My medicine confiscated. I had to hire an attorney. It cost me thousands of dollars. The police had proof that I drive with high levels of cannabinoids in my blood. The prosecutor threatened to charge me with DUI, even though there was no evidence of impairment. I have been a marijuana patient for 25 years and I drive more than most people. There was no ticket or court date. The threat of criminal charges hung over my head for 18 months before they closed the case. They refused to return the medicine seized that night, even though I had broken no law.
Two years ago, another driver bumped into me on the highway. When the State Patrolman arrived, he immediately smelled cannabis in my vehicle. Again, I produced my medical paper and explained I was on my way to the Lifevine office with the medicine. He glanced at the contents of my suitcase and exclaimed, "That's a lot of marijuana!" I assured him it was within the legal limit. He accepted my word and never even mentioned it again. I drove away with a sigh of relief, knowing there had been a profound change in the official acceptance of medical cannabis in our state.
I was also pulled over in Seattle last year. The Seattle cop gave me a stern warning, because I had not made a complete stop at an empty intersection. He also smelled marijuana, but completely lost interest as soon as I said I was a patient. He never even asked for my paperwork.
I thought the days of prejudice and abuse against marijuana patients were finally coming to an end in Washington State. But now I-502 has criminalized my right to drive. Police now have a new tool, a new rule to enforce. The unscientific threshold of 5 Nan grams set by I-502 will set back our years of progress and potentially ruin the lives of all patients, who drive!
Thank you for being a part of Lifevine, Washington’s leader in medical marijuana policy and practice! While member donations have already funded a dozen years of patient advocacy, we still have more important work to do. Supporting Lifevine improves and saves lives, while protecting patient rights in The Evergreen State.
November 12, 2012