Initiative 502 was the topic of a well-attended and lively debate this past week at the University of Washington. While various arguments were made for and against the proposition, much of the talk centered on the provision that would create a zero-tolerance policy for marijuana in Washingtonians under 21.
The bill also sets the baseline level of active THC (the active ingredient in pot) at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood for drivers.
Marijuana advocates call this part of the legislation unfair, since trace amounts of THC can be present in the bloodstream for a day (or longer) after marijuana is consumed.
At the debate, Seattle Attorney Pete Holmes (who favors I-502) said that the zero-tolerance proviso and the 5 nanograms for drivers was necessary in order to gain the bill's passage by voters. But medical marijuana entrepreneur Steve Sarich countered that it would ensnare college students and potentially wreck their futures.
A large component of the UW debate was the racial impacts of marijuana prosecution.Fellow supporter Leslie David Braxton, a Baptist minister, called it a weapon of "institutional racism." Although his fellow African Americans make up 7 percent of Seattle's population, more than half of the marijuana prosecutions in the city were against blacks until Holmes was elected and stopped charging marijuana-possession cases, he said."The war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people," said Braxton, of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in South King County.
What do you think? Does the zero-tolerance part of I-502 make it an unacceptable choice? Or is it better to vote in some type of marijuana legalization despite its drawbacks? Or is legalizing marijuana a bad idea altogether?A