When it comes to the hotly debated issue of making Washington state the first in the nation to legalize marijuana, there are a few areas that both proponents and opponents of Initiative 502 can likely agree upon.
For starters, both sides would probably agree there is no clear cut verdict on what both the short and long term effect of marijuana is on users, even though impaired judgement and memory and impaired critical thinking skills might be a conclusion many of us might make.
Two, marijuana has made a resounding rebound in popularity in young people over the past 15-20 years. From all accounts its use among high school and even middle school students is likely at record levels, though no overwhelming evidence exists to stake that claim.
And regarding medical marijuana, many of us would likely support the use of the drug for patients who genuinely need it and could be helped by it, provided tight controls were in place to limit its use to only these patients.
The problem with I-502 is that instead of addressing these issues along with the overall rampant use of the drug in our state, it simply allows us to avoid the hard questions and waive the white flag in defeat.
By approving it, we simply say to everyone else in the country where it will be illegal is that it’s OK to smoke pot in our state, so come on over the bridge and as long as you pay the taxes on it, we welcome your business.
By saying yes to I-502 our state would be diving headlong into issues of how to enforce driving while impaired laws, how arrests would hold up in the courts and how federal government laws would clash with marijuana being legalized in our state. Talk about uncharted waters and expensive litigation. Washington would be the poster child for chaos resulting from that.
The main argument for I-502 rests simply on the tax revenue proponents claim will be raised from legal sales of the drug. They argue that the black market will just instantly disappear once the drug becomes legal and piles of tax money from pot will come raining down on Olympia.
But it’s naïve to think the illegal pot market would just disappear overnight. Like tires and groceries, people will pay the lowest possible price for any product. And that would keep the black market for pot in place.
There are way too many unanswered questions about the unintended consequences of I-502 passing in Washington. We should let some other state be the guinea pig for this wildly risky legalization of marijuana.
Vote no on I-502.