The Russ Belville Show

My fellow pot smokers, we are on the brink of victory!  Tomorrow voters in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado will make history.  For the first time in America, three states will be deciding whether to end the criminal prohibition of adult marijuana for personal use.  In just one election after the defeat of California’s Prop 19, marijuana may go from being contraband worthy of imprisonment to being a commodity sold legally in the state.  In one, two, or three states, we go from being criminals to being consumers.

And yet there are people who smoke pot now who are actively fighting against these measures.  These “Stoners Against (This) Legalization” are trying to frighten and confuse us into voting for our own criminality.  If they succeed, they will have handed the Drug Czar his greatest victory yet – the entire West Coast and Colorado voting against legalization in the span of two elections.

If you’re still on the fence, my cannabis consuming brothers and sisters, here are the top five reasons we’ve found from those pot smokers who’ll be voting with the Drug Czar, the prosecutors, the rehabs, the prison guards, and the cops who want to keep putting you in cages for smoking weed… and why they’re nonsense.

SCARE #1) You’ll never be able to drive a car – you’ll be an “automatic DUID”!

This is a scare tactic in Washington State, where the legalization measure contains a controversial “per se DUID” provision.  Basically, if a cop pulls you over and arrests you for a DUID, they will test your blood.  If it is over a certain level, the judge tells the jury that is proof enough of the fact you were impaired behind the wheel.  This is how alcohol DUIDs work – if you’re arrested by a cop who thinks you’re driving drunk, they make you blow in a breathalyzer.  If you’re “over the limit” of 0.08 blood-alcohol content, you’re considered to be too drunk to drive.

Where the controversy exists is that the level for active impairing THC in the blood is set to 5 nanograms per milliliter.  Marijuana is not chemically like alcohol, so you can’t really set a one-size-fits-all limit like alcohol that shows somebody was recently toking and is currently impaired.  Some of us who toke deeply and often may be over the limit hours after we’ve consumed and may be quite unimpaired behind the wheel.  Some occasional light tokers might be too impaired to drive even when under the limit.

WHY IT’S WRONG:  Nothing about Washington’s legalization measure changes DUIDs at the “cop level”.  Anything cops do now to catch people driving stoned is what they will still do after legalization passes, which means they still need to have objective evidence of your impaired driving in order to arrest you and take your blood.  If, indeed, you’re quite unimpaired behind the wheel, what is leading the officer to believe you’re driving impaired?  Because driving with active impairing THC in your blood is against the law now.  When those cases go to trial, ANY amount of THC in blood can and usually does get you a DUID conviction.

Let’s be clear that we are talking about active impairing THC in blood, not the inactive metabolites of marijuana that show up in your urine on your workplace drug tests days or even weeks after your last use.  Some pot-smoking opponents of this legalization have purposefully blurred that distinction to heighten the scare.  For most tokers, 1-4 hours after you’ve consumed, you will be below the legal limit.  For the rest of us, well, how long have you been driving and how many times have you been arrested?  That arrest risk does not increase after legalization passes.

SCARE #2) This is not “true legalization” – it’s just “decriminalization on steroids”!

I find this to be an odd scare, because, what, we’re against decriminalization now?  But as it goes, the pot smokers making this claim are against Washington’s legalization because it contains no provision to allow people to grow their own marijuana plants for personal use.  Colorado’s measure allows for cultivation of three plants, but there and in Washington some tokers claim it’s not “true legalization” because marijuana would still be in the state’s “Schedule I” designation or that limits of one ounce aren’t “true legalization” because there aren’t limits on how much legal beer one can possess or buy.  Even in Oregon, where the legalization would allow unlimited personal possession and cultivation, a few cannabis consumers say it’s not “true legalization” because the state would be taxing and regulating it.

WHY IT’S WRONG:  These are word games.  “Decriminalization” as everyone but these people understand it means “removal of criminal penalties in favor of civil punishments”.  Oregon and Colorado are “decriminalized”, but getting caught with a personal amount of weed still means a hefty fine and civil sanctions, like losing your driver’s license.  And it’s still illegal, which means its possession is the probable cause needed by police to harass you further.  “Legalization” means legal – no ticket, no fine, no record, no arrest, no punishment, no sanction, and most importantly, no probable cause.

Now, it may not be “as legal” as you might like, but all three of these measures are certainly “legalization”.  “Legal” drugs is a spectrum that ranges from tightly-controlled hospital morphine to pharmacy-prescribed Viagra to over-the-counter aspirin.  As long as you’re following the regulations, those drugs are legal, just as marijuana will be.

SCARE #3) With all the taxes, marijuana is going to cost $600 per ounce!

What’s very strange about this scare tactic is that the people who employ it will then also tell you that the legalization measure won’t do anything to hurt the black market, because it will just undercut the highly taxed legal marijuana market.  Apparently when people are trying to sell weed, market forces will make them adjust their prices.

So why doesn’t this also affect the legal taxed marijuana market?  If the black market is so successful in undercutting the state, why wouldn’t the state respond by lowering prices in order to compete?  The state’s motivation in taxing weed is to raise revenue; if that revenue doesn’t materialize, the state will adjust.

WHY IT’S WRONG:  Are you going to buy a $600 legal ounce when you’re getting it now for $200-$300?  These scares are all based on marijuana growers beginning with the prices they charge now at the wholesale level, based on the risk or prohibition, and calculating the taxes from that point.  When it’s legal, you start at the production cost level, not the prohibition risk level, and prices of marijuana drop up to 50% at the retail level.

Anybody who tells you that the price of marijuana will be negatively affected by marijuana legalization is somebody who’ll see a negative effect in their wallet when the prohibition tax is eliminated.

SCARE #4) This is just a conspiracy to control pot smokers and the marijuana market!

This article about terrified pot smokers wouldn’t be complete without some conspiracy theory.   From “this is a conspiracy to catch us all for DUIs” to “this is a conspiracy to give away the marijuana market to Big Pharma / Big Tobacco”, we’ve heard them all.  These scares always ignore the fact that a conspiracy exists right now to catch us all for having marijuana and it gives away the marijuana market to murderous Mexicans.

WHY IT’S WRONG:  These conspiracies presume DUI lawyers and the state are waiting to make a mint on DUI arrests, when more lawyers make money on drug cases and the state makes more money from marijuana fines and asset forfeiture.  They presume big corporations would take over, when as long as marijuana is federally illegal and they do business nationwide, they’ll fear for a federal indictment and asset seizure for involvement in Schedule I drugs crimes.

SCARE #5) This would set a terrible precedent – we can do better next time!

This is a tactic that is often put forth by other marijuana activists who are working with groups that have failed repeatedly to get their version of “true legalization” on the ballot.  If this legalization passes, they’ll warn, then the other states that take up legalization initiatives will follow with the same set of terrible regulations.

Oh no.  We’ll have discovered the blueprint to get a majority to support marijuana legalization.  How awful.

This scare tactic is heard most in Washington State, where they fear the per se DUID provision will become a part of every future legalization.  But that’s only possible if Washington’s is the only one to pass; if more than one passes, then there are multiple precedents to choose from.  The only way Washington can be the precedent is if it is the only one to pass and wouldn’t that sort of prove the point that the per se DUID provision was necessary to pass legalization?

WHY IT’S WRONG:  There will be no “better next time”.  There have been eight attempts in 42 years to legalize marijuana in a state.  Every attempt has failed, and each successive attempt in a state has gotten more conservative.  The pot-smoking opponents of Washington’s legalization claim they can make the ballot in 2013 or 2014 with a measure that would completely abolish all marijuana laws.  This will not attract any major donors and it’s hard to imagine a public that would have voted down the conservative legalization then supporting the most liberal legalization, especially in a non-presidential election year.

The “next time” if there is one will be in 2016 and the people with the big money to support legalization will not want to put out millions again for a losing effort.  They will make the measure even more restrictive in hopes of winning reluctant voters.

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  • ThisYear

    I can’t wait until tomorrow night! Thanks for all you do