Setting a Higher Bar

Setting a Higher Bar

This November Washington residents will be voting on Initiative 502, an ACLU-sponsored initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use in Washington State.

Yesterday, the seldom-progressive Seattle Times endorsed a yes vote on I-502, commemorating Seattle’s long history of allowing Hempfest to operate for 21 years in legal limbo within our public parks.

In their endorsement, the Seattle Times Editorial Board gave a nod to opponents of I-502, who dislike the DUI-style provisions created by the new bill.

But they also fall into the trap of pretending there is not currently a law against driving while under the influence of marijuana.

According to RCW 46.61.502:

“A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:

And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW46.61.506; or while the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug;

The fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use a drug under the laws of this state shall not constitute a defense against a charge of violating this section.

There is currently a zero-tolerance rule for driving while under the influence of non-alcoholic drugs. I-502’s “new” DUI threshold would raise the current limit by setting one.

In addition, the new threshold measures a seldom-used test for the active component in marijuana that causes the sensation of being “high”. This is different than the inactive metabolite employers test for that lasts for weeks at a time (and may have cost you a job or two).

This establishes the first legal difference between proof that you are currently high versus proof you attended a Snoop Dog Lion concert two weeks earlier.  There’s no carve-out for the latter under current law, and a judge or jury who sees no legal distinction could choose to convict a person who was completely sober but driving erratically.

Washington State could be the first state to break from Federal Law and legalize marijuana for casual use.  Whether voters think this is a good idea is totally up to them.  But an informed electorate is important, stoned or not.

This blog post was written by Devin Glaser, longtime friend and volunteer of the Bus.

No ID? No Vote, No Voice

No ID? No Vote, No Voice

Twenty percent of 18 to 24-year-olds do not have a government-issued photo ID. In the ten states shown below, those young people without IDs will be unable to vote in November.

Obtaining a photo ID is more difficult than you would expect. Offices that issue photo IDs have limited business hours and are often found in rural areas where there is limited public transportation. On top of that, it can cost between $8-$25 to obtain a birth certificate (which is needed to get a photo ID). The Brennan Center for Justice outlines the difficulties of obtaining a photo ID in this comprehensive report.

What’s the reason behind these laws? Proponents argue that voter ID laws help ensure the integrity of elections by preventing voter fraud. The reality is that voter fraud does not exist. While there are allegations of non-citizens voting in elections or people voting twice using fake names, that is simply not the case. A report by the Brennan Center for Justice in 2007 found that, “it is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

Lightning Strikes Vote Fakers Dead

Your ability to vote in elections should not be determined by how much money you have in your pocket or whether you can visit an office to get an ID. Instead, we should encourage voting and make it easier for everyone to participate in elections. The problem is not apathy, it’s access. Laws like the voter ID laws we have seen place an unfair burden on young people.

Who Doesn't Have Government ID

A recent report by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts found that 44 percent of young adults didn’t know if they had to show a government photo ID or a driver’s license to vote. Thankfully, here in Washington State photo ID is not required to vote. But if you’re attending college out of state and are considering voting there, I encourage you to check out this voters’ guide from the Brennan Center for Justice.

This blog post was written by 2012 Fellow Tyler Sadonis.