Opinion

Initiative 502: a risky proposition | Guest Column

I-502 would legalize and tax the sale of marijuana. - Contributed photo
I-502 would legalize and tax the sale of marijuana.
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Brad Fincher

By Nov. 6, the citizens of the state ofWashington will be asked to vote Yes or No on I-502.

If passed, this initiative would legalize and tax the sale of marijuana. I will vote “No” on legalizing marijuana and this is why.

I believe marijuana impairs function and learning and is habit forming. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse.

Risks associated with marijuana include learning and memory problems. One out of 10 marijuana users become addicted (National Institute of Drug Abuse, www.drugabuse.gov) the first time they try it. The percentages increase the more it is used.

After alcohol, marijuana is the highest addiction criteria for adults going into in-patient treatment in the state of Washington. It is the number one reason for youth entering the same facilities (www.dshs.wa.gov, trends in recovery)

I believe that I-502 will increase availability and use by adults and youth. There will be a percentage of the population that will purchase, try and use marijuana simply because it would be legal for adults over 21. However, just like alcohol it will be easy for minors to get. Perhaps from an older sibling, or from their parent’s “stash”, or simply pay someone to go into the “marijuana store” and buy it for them.

Yes, the marijuana store. I-502 gives authority to the Liquor Control Board to establish rules and regulations to license private businesses the right to sell marijuana. Much like the old government liquor stores (remember we voted to privatize liquor last year) the marijuana store would be strictly limited to its purpose.

How would that look in Friday Harbor? A private business person would apply for a license, submit to fingerprinting by the FBI, and locate a storefront. How about the available space next to the movie theater? Remember where the old shoe store (then real estate agency) used to be? Then anyone over the age of 21 can walk in and purchase their taxed, regulated, and inspected (organic?) marijuana.

I believe that, like alcohol and tobacco, legalization of marijuana will increase social costs. Any revenue will pale in comparison to the social and health costs associated with abuse and addiction.

Taxes cover just 7.8 percent of the $185 billion in social costs associated with alcohol, including medical, legal, treatment and law enforcement costs (www.whitehouse.gov). It is state law that allows our state Legislature to divert “dedicated” funds into the state general fund just two years after any initiative is approved by the voters. So any dedicated funds that have been earmarked for substance abuse prevention and treatment are not guaranteed for long.

Those are my reasons. Here are a few more to consider.

The federal government will still consider marijuana illegal and all those marijuana businesses could be subject to arrest or seizure for illegal drug trafficking. I-502 will set a science-based limit of 5ng/ml of THC blood concentration for D.U.I. This means anyone who smokes marijuana daily (including medical marijuana users) would be considered above the legal limit and could be arrested and convicted for a D.U.I. The American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against legalizing marijuana. How will insurance agencies and employers reset their criteria for acceptance?

I-502 is too risky a proposition. Vote “No”.

— Editor’s note: Brad Fincher is the chairman of the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition, whose mission is to reduce substance abuse in our community; website, www.sjipc.org

 

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