In this article I will explain how Washington’s Initiative 502 is similar to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
There are differences, because we are now in a post Controlled Substances Act era, and this initiative is being touted as the initiative that will “legalize marihuana” (yes I spell cannabis as marihuana in this article similar to the way they did in 1937 for the marihuana tax act).
The similarities that I am noting have to do with the tax, and the proposal for a legal/regulated market. The differences in the two are only related to the post 1970 Controlled Substances Act era.
My proposal in this article is that Initiative 502 is not legalization, it is just a clever way of retaining prohibition at a time when Hempfest is at its all time height of attendee’s, when a group with a shoe-string budget in Washington collected hundreds of thousands of signatures on a mostly volunteer basis to get cannabis legalized in Washington.
On March 18th 2012, sponsor of I-502 Pete Holmes said after a long speech about how he believe in decriminalization of marihuana, that “a people’s initiative (to legalize marihuana) scares him terribly“.
They (the prohibitionists and lawyer profiteers) realized that a people’s initiative passing was a reality and they fought desperately to thwart those efforts. Pete Holmes, Alison Holcomb, the ACLU and many of the law enforcement officials all publicly denounced the efforts of thousands of volunteers to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures to legalize (remove the prohibitions) from marihuana laws in Washington. (see www.sensiblewashington.org)
At the end of my summary I will post the texts of the two law proposals (The Marihuana Tax Act 1937 and Initiative 502). What’s also interesting to note, is that I-502 is far larger in size/text than the original prohibition proposal The 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. I am just going to give links to the I-502 initiative because of its enormous size.
Lets start off with a few points.
- The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was not designed to create a market, despite what the text said. Rather it was designed to create prohibition of cannabis. See this article, the intro is a great description regarding how TMTA-1937 created prohibition: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/mjtaxact.htm
- The title of the act, and the words in the act appeared to create a taxable and regulated market. But after the act passed in 1937 very few stamps were issued. During WWII many stamps were issued to fuel the war efforts. But after WWII very few were ever issued again.
It is noted:
“Shortly after the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act went into effect on October 1, 1937, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Denver City police arrested Moses Baca for possession and Samuel Caldwell for dealing. Baca and Caldwell’s arrest made them the first marijuana convictions under U.S. federal law for not paying the marijuana tax. Judge Foster Symes sentenced Baca to 18 months and Caldwell to four years in Leavenworth Penitentiary for violating the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.”
If we compare this to Initiative 502, which is something touted by law enforcement and other sponsors as a way to reduce crime in the black market, and to create safer roads in Washington.
As described by the Secretary of State’s office, the measure would “license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.”
Here are the points being debated
- State law currently requires a prosecutor to prove impairment in court for DUI, after I-502 impairment is not the measurement it is a rather un-scientific blood limit of THC (5nanograms of active THC). This targets heavy users, specifically patients that are legally recommended by a doctor to use cannabis under Washington state laws
- The excise taxes are extreme, 25% at each point of the market with local and state taxes on top of that equaling a rough 90% tax on cannabis, thus keeping it in the black market (even if the market was remotely possible under this proposal)
- All to help alleviate the 10,000 or so possession arrests per year in Washington state. When many of those arrests will happen anyway since the largest demographic of cannabis consumers are under the age of 21, and many of those arrests will happen anyway because a lot of those arrests are for over one ounce (the allowable limit).
- The offset of these arrests are the potential for a lot more arrests via the provisions in Sec. 31., Page 46
My summary is. The two of these law reform proposals have similar goals. They both looked really good for the community before they were voted in, and were being proposed as something different than what the language contained in them defines. We know now that the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was certainly the gateway to extreme marihuana prohibition. But what about I-502. I propose that this is also a gateway to more prohibition. It does not at all in anyway say “legalization” to me. In fact where I am in California anyone over the age of 18 can possess an ounce of marihuana without committing a crime, and there were no new and restrictive driving provisions installed when SB 1449 was passed, and there is no more mayhem on the roads than before. There are over a dozen other states that have decriminalized in the same or similar ways.
I-502’s proposal for state liquor board regulated cannabis stores, and cooperation with the federal government including FBI fingerprints and background check for cannabis distributors is a sure sign that there will be no legal market, and this proposal for a ‘legal market’ will crash and burn just like SB 5073.
One more thing to note is that Washington has sufficient driving regulations to protect the roads against impaired driving. Both DUI and Reckless Driving laws.
With Reckless driving the officer does not need to prove impairment, but only needs a visual observation that a person is driving Recklessly to issue penalties and possibly arrest. The penalties of Reckless Driving rival and in some way are even stricter than DUI.
There are also many other laws that work similarly such as
Washington didn’t need more restrictions on driving for this initiative to pass. It just needed to be clear when educating about current laws regarding driving and cannabis.
- See the entire initiative here: http://sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/initiatives/i502.pdf
- Here is the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/mjtaxact.htm
Comparing Initiative 502 to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937