Rewriting Pot Legalization

Lawmakers are already talking about changing I-502.

Does anybody think that the passage of I-502 is the last word on marijuana policy in this state? If so, think again.

As discussed after the election, the feds have yet to reveal what they intend to do. But the legislature, too, could still tinker significantly with the new law.

After his convincing victory over challenger Joel Hussey, State Rep. Roger Goodman says he's prepared to take on pot in the coming session. Goodman is an interesting figure. For many years a champion of legalization, he has also argued for controls. Most recently he raised eyebrows among pot activists by telling The Seattle Times, for its exposé on the Wild West culture of dispensaries, that "we need to overregulate" the industry and become more permissive over time.

So we asked Goodman if he still believes in overregulation, whatever that means. He says he does, and gives an example. "I've gotten into some hot water over this," he says, "but I believe that cannabis should not be allowed in the passenger compartment of a vehicle." By that he means the body of a car. "Put it in the trunk!" he says. He says it's a matter of public safety to make sure that drivers neither smoke pot nor get a secondhand high. But on a more vital point regarding stoned driving, he's thinking about trying to work some leeway into the rules set by I-502.

As critics of the initiative pointed out again and again, it contains a DUI provision that would result in an automatic conviction for drivers found with 5 nanograms of active THC in their bloodstream. Medical- marijuana patients complained that, given their heavy use of the drug, their THC level would almost always exceed that limit.

Goodman, who says he'd like to hold a series of hearings on impaired driving, favors enacting a special "protection" for patients that would hold them to a different standard. Law enforcement would have to show the results not only of a blood test, but of a "separate evaluation" to determine whether a patient's driving was impaired.

I-502's critics may also be heartened to learn that Goodman says he wants to address the initiative's lack of a home-grow provision. "At the moment, home production is illegal," he says—a situation he'd like to change, while drafting rules to ensure people grow only small amounts at home. In his suburban 45th District, which stretches from Kirkland to the Snoqualmie Valley, he says he's always hearing about larger "grow houses at the end of cul-de-sacs, and everybody complains about it."

In the pre-502 landscape, Goodman would have faced an uphill battle for his more lenient proposals. There's a reason marijuana legalization happened by initiative, not legislative action. But 502 dramatically alters the scene. Asked what the legislative landscape around pot is now likely to be, Goodman says "It's really hard to tell." Among other things, he points out, there's a new governor in the mix.

Governor-elect Jay Inslee said repeatedly during the campaign that he opposed I-502. While he indicated last week that he would carry out the will of the people, it's anybody's guess how he would react to loosening the rules even further.

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