Judge rejects bid to block Washington state "stoned driving" rules

OLYMPIA, Washington Fri Dec 7, 2012 6:43pm EST

Marijuana is seen in the hand of a person after the law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana went into effect in Seattle, Washington December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Cliff Despeaux

Marijuana is seen in the hand of a person after the law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana went into effect in Seattle, Washington December 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Cliff Despeaux

Related Topics

OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - A judge on Friday rejected a request by a medical marijuana user to block Washington state from enforcing tougher "stoned driving" rules after it became one of the first U.S. states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Washington state voters last month approved marijuana legalization by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, making the state, along with Colorado, the first in the country to legalize recreational pot use.

The new rules, which for most marijuana smokers would put them over the legal driving limit for a couple hours after taking two or three hits from a joint, took effect on Thursday.

The legal challenge came from Arthur West, an Olympia-based lawyer and medical marijuana patient who said the ballot initiative's title wrongly left out any mention of the DUI provisions.

He also argued that those provisions will enable police to target medical marijuana users, who typically have higher residual blood levels of THC--the active ingredient in marijuana--for car stops.

"I don't think it's fair that the tens of thousands of patients in the state of Washington have to choose between whether they take their medicine or be subject to arrest for driving under the influence every time they get in their cars," he said.

In rejecting West's request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Lisa Sutton noted that police have long been empowered to pull over drivers they suspect of impaired driving.

"That is the same case today, after the passage of this initiative, as it was before," Sutton said.

Though the hearing Friday dealt primarily with the DUI provisions, West's lawsuit also asserts that the initiative wrongly earmarks tax money raised by regulating marijuana for unrelated services such as primary health and dental care, and that state legislators improperly advocated its passage.

West said he will push ahead with his case, taking it all the way to the state's supreme court if necessary.

Assistant Attorney General Bruce Turcott, who defended the new marijuana law in court, said he was satisfied with the ruling.

"I would have been very surprised" if the judge had ruled differently, Turcott added.

Alison Holcomb, an attorney with the Washington state ACLU who led the legalization campaign, declined to comment on the case.

Previously, Holcomb told Reuters that she included the DUI provisions in the initiative after an internal poll in May showed that 62 percent of 602 likely voters said a pot-impaired driving standard would make them more likely to vote for legalization

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Andrew Hay)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
Pardon my typos as I laugh. I just can’t help but to rub some well deserved salt into some recently opened wounds.

I recall an old comedy routine that said, “While under the influence of marijuana you may think you have divine revelation only to find out later it was none to divine.”

All the pot heads in Washington could think about was making it legal to smoke in public. None of them looked at other previous attempts to legalize in in other states, like California or even bothered much to “read the find print” of the law they were attempting to pass.

They all were told many times that this law would create levels of THC in the blood to be used to determine if the user was “Driving While under the Influence” which are also the laws determining alcohol levels in the blood to take drunk drivers off the streets.

I know many were told because I was the one telling them. Oh but I was just a conservative old fool as nothing like this could possibly happen. After all, the people spoke, now didn’t they?

The jubilant tokers also failed to realize, given the ruse of only legalizing it for medical use, that you can even be convicted of a DUI on prescription drugs, which now apparently includes marijuana.

The statement, “I don’t think it’s fair that the tens of thousands of patients in the state of Washington have to choose between whether they take their medicine or be subject to arrest for driving under the influence every time they get in their cars,” is a rather foolish one when one considers that patients on prescription Valium cannot legally drive while they are under the influence of the drug. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that an analgesic such as marijuana wouldn’t be treated the same.

Besides, are there really tens of thousands of pot smoking patients currently living in Washington State today? Or is this just another magical number picked up out of the foggy haze behind blood shot eyes that have taken on the appearance of a road map?

Thought ya were gonna make it better an ended up makin it worse. But that’s normal for someone not thinking clearly isn’t it? Things were much better for you when it was illegal. Now you get DUIs and soon taxes. That bud you use ta buy for $20 or $40 soon, after the government “legalizes” it and taxes it, will most likely double the cost for you and make it more difficult to obtain just like when prohibition was repealed.

And now that you have let the government camel get his nose into your tent, it won’t be long before he’s completely on the inside and you are left standing out in the cold.

Congratulations on shooting yourselves in the proverbial foot. Guess all of you were not quite as smart as you thought you were.

Dec 07, 2012 8:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Kevin20036 wrote:
Don’t be absurd. We simply weren’t worried about the per se limit as we don’t live in the same fantasy world as Steve Sarich and the clowns who follow him. We know that before you can get arrested for DUI you have to be investigated for suspicion of impaired driving. That’s easy enough to avoid. All that’s needed is to not drive when impaired.

We also understood that it was already criminalized to drive while impaired and that the only thing that changed was that the affirmative defense was no longer an option.

In the last several months I’ve been asking the anti-502 people for even a single example of an acquittal for a cannabis addled driving charge where the driver tested in excess of 5 ng/ml of active THC in the blood. It’s a little late but perhaps you can come up with one.

Another point is that when a person is investigated for drunken driving but tests lower than the BAC limit of 0.08 it’s very rare to even see authorities pursue the case. Yes you most certainly can be convicted of drunken driving with a BAC in excess of 0.02. I expect something similar to affect those drivers who test below 5 ng/ml. In Colorado just under 8% of those charged with cannabis addled driving test in excess of 5 ng/ml. BTW the Colorado Legislature is almost certainly going to match the I-502 per se limits shortly after their Legislature next convenes. What in the world makes you think that the Washington Legislature wouldn’t have done the same?

I understand that there were about 8000 convictions anually for petty possession of cannabis in Washington. 8000 people that the Sariches of the world would have no problem seeing convicted. Add in 92% of those arrested for cannabis addled driving lower than 5 ng/ml and all I hear in your arguments are spoiled babies crying for what they want.

I’ve ben choosing to enjoy cannabis for just under 35 1/2 years now, and I’ve never once had a police officer look at me cross eyed much less investigate me for cannabis addled driving. There’s a very good reason for that. I never go out driving when I’m impaired. It’s not that I worry about getting arrested, it’s quite simply because I place a high value on being alive and being able to walk from here to there on my own two legs.

In that same 35 1/2 years I’ve known one person arrested for and convicted of cannabis addled driving. That particular rocket scientist smoked a bowl in his car in a shopping center parking lot. When he backed out of his parking space he backed into the police car driven by his arresting officer. You’ve got to be nucking futz if you think protecting someone that stupid is worth watching thousands and thousands of people getting arrested and convicted for petty possession.

It’s laughably absurd to claim that less prohibition is worse than more and even more stupid to argue that people can’t become a menace to highway safety after choosing to enjoy cannabis. Perhaps in some alternative reality your diatribe would be realistic but in our reality you are simply clueless.

Dec 08, 2012 1:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.