Posted by: bkivey | 8 December 2012

High TImes

On 6 December Washington State enacted Proposition 502, the measure passed by voters to legalize private use of marijuana. It’s now completely legal for anyone over 18 to toke up in private and possess up to 1 oz. of weed. The Feds, who still classify dope as a big, bad, Schedule 1 drug, have been remarkably silent on the law. For everyone else, the fallout has been confusing and amusing.

  • Law enforcement already has standards for allowable blood THC levels under DWI laws. Police have taken to media outlets offering tips to Oregonians (and presumably Idahoans) who travel to the state to light up. Sample tip: use a designated driver.
  • Pre-employment and random drug screening is now problematic. These screens are usually required by the company’s insurance carrier, and the standard five-panel screen doesn’t test for alcohol. Detectable amounts of THC stay in the body far longer than detectable amounts of alcohol. If a person is tested for pot three days after smoking, they may fail, but that same person would be in the clear if they drank three days prior and submitted to an alcohol screen. Neither would be impaired. The ACLU is just waiting for a test case.
  • Because marijuana use is still illegal under Federal law, a toker won’t be able to work a Federal job or contract. In Washington, this is now equivalent to telling people they can’t drink if they want to work for the Feds. I’m sure many lawyers are expecting an increase in billable hours.
  • Along with Colorado, I expect to see Washington involved in 10th Amendment lawsuits. Although in fairness, the states pretty much abrogated those rights when they started accepting Federal entitlement program money.

The law provides for the introduction of a state-sponsored system of marijuana growing and distribution modeled on the current alcohol distribution system. The rub is that the state is allowed a year to set the system up. So while Washington citizens can possess pot, they can’t legally grow or buy it. This has led to one public official appearing on TV and saying in all seriousness that they discouraged people from buying pot from ‘unlicensed’ drug dealers. Suuure.

I don’t use marijuana, but I support it’s legalization. It’s a far less harmful drug than alcohol: I’ve never heard of anyone starting a fight or beating their wife while high. When I was in high school, I had a math teacher who said on the first day of class that if someone came in stoned, he’d let them be, but if they were drunk, it was straight to the office. When asked why, he said that it was his experience that stoners would sit quietly, while drunks were disruptive. And that’s my experience with users. I don’t care what your recreational drug of choice is, but don’t come to work impaired, and don’t use if you’re going to put others in danger. Legalizing pot won’t be the end of the Republic, but it might make it a more, like, mellow, man.

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