Medical marijuana patients file counter-initiative in legalization effort

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OLYMPIA — Medical marijuana patients who oppose an initiative to legalize marijuana filed a counter initiative Friday.

The opponents of Initiative 502 filed the “Safe Cannabis Act” with the secretary of state’s office. Its sponsor, Mimi Meiwes, said she and other medical marijuana patients are concerned about what they see as an overly strict blood test limit for driving under the influence under I-502.

Initiative 502 would would create a system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores, and impose a 25 percent excise tax at each stage. Those 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; one pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.

One element of the measure would make it illegal for a motorist to have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system. THC is the active ingredient of cannabis.

Meiwes and others opposed to I-502 argue that medical marijuana patients’ levels vary depending on the body’s tolerance, putting them at greater risk of arrest.

“We don’t have a problem with legalization efforts,” Meiwes said. “But this is to protect patients.”

The newly filed counter initiative has not received a number yet. A draft must be reviewed by the code reviser’s office, and then the sponsor must submit a final version, which could take a few weeks.

The new initiative would decriminalize marijuana for medical marijuana patients, would provide patients and providers with protection from arrest — instead of the current law of “affirmative defense” — and would classify hemp as an agricultural product.

Washington state already has a voter-approved medical marijuana law that gives doctors the right to recommend — but not prescribe — marijuana for people suffering from cancer and other conditions that cause “intractable pain.”

To qualify for the November ballot, sponsors must submit at least 241,153 signatures of valid registered voters by July 6 evening.

A message left for supporters of I-502 was not immediately returned Friday.

The group sponsoring I-502 turned in signatures for their initiative to the Legislature last month. The secretary of state’s office is still counting signatures on that measure, but if it qualifies as expected, it will go to the Legislature.

Lawmakers would have to take action during the upcoming 60-day legislative session that begins Monday or the measure automatically goes to the November ballot. I-502 has several high-profile sponsors, including former Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay and travel guide guru Rick Steves.

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Online:

http://newapproachwa.org

http://www.patientsagainsti502.org

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Rachel La Corte can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/RachelAPOly