No on I-502 Flashback, Part 3: It’s a Trick to Make More Marijuana Arrests


In yesterday’s Part 2: It Will Set the Stage for Bad Legalization, I showed how the anti-legalization campaign “No on I-502” warned that Washington’s no home grow and per se DUID would spread to other future legalization states (they didn’t). In Wednesday’s Part 1: Feds Will Never Allow $600 Ounces, I recalled how “No on I-502” predicted $600 ounces and no legal place to buy them.

Today, as I prepare for my first of three speeches at Seattle Hempfest, I conclude our look back at the scaremongering our fellow pot smokers used to fight against ending our criminality.


This was the first of many arguments that complained that since all marijuana would not be legalized, some people would still be busted, so we should vote to keep everybody subject to being busted. This was used to demean the value of the hemp legalization contained in I-502.

“If [a hemp farmers’ crop] passes 0.3% THC, they would face state-level prosecution.” – Anthony Martinelli (October 17, 2012, Sensible Washington)

RESULT: Most states and the federal Farm Bill define hemp at 0.3% THC. Only West Virginia allows for 1% THC hemp. No hemp farmers in the United States have faced state-level prosecution.


The big scare, however, is that anything short of you buying marijuana at a state store and smoking it all by yourself would lead to drastic consequences!

“If you pass a joint to a friend, you’re guilty of delivery of a controlled substance, a Class C felony.” – Anthony Martinelli (March 4, 2012, Sensible Washington)

“Unless you bought that ounce at a state-licensed store, you’d still get busted.” – Steve Elliott (August 13, 2012, Toke of the Town)

“Under I-502, possession north of 40 grams becomes a felony.” No on I-502 Campaign Head Steve Sarich (June 24, 2012, Northwest Leaf)

RESULT: Forget for the moment that I-502 didn’t make 40-gram possession a felony; that was the law already. The Drug Policy Alliance Report for Washington found that misdemeanor marijuana arrests are DOWN 98% from 2012 to 2014; ALL marijuana court filings are DOWN 63%; and ALL marijuana court convictions are DOWN 81%… and nobody was busted for possession of a non-store ounce.


If you didn’t buy into those scares, then the final scare was that what used to be a risk of a small-time possession charge will turn into the risk of an unimpaired marijuana DUI charge.

“[Cops will] sit there waiting to shoot hippie fish in a barrel as they leave Hempfest, just pulling ‘em over as they leave, and ordering blood tests.” – Steve Elliott (August 13, 2012, Toke of the Town)

“We’ve made the case that per se DUI standards are an extension of cannabis prohibition… if I-502 passes, prejudiced cops will see it as open season on minority youth.” – Anthony Martinelli (March 19, 2012, Sensible Washington)

“The 10,000 possession arrests per year can easily be converted into 10,000 (or more) DUI arrests.” – Douglas Hiatt (October 7, 2012, The Olympian)

“Possession cases will be replaced by DUI cases.” – Jeffrey Steinborn (March 7, 2012, The Stranger)

RESULT: In 2012, there were 1,621 drug DUIs. In 2013, it dropped to 1,357. From 2013-2014, positive THC tests rose 29%. But >5ng results declined from 720 to 703, dropping from 53% to 40% of all positive tests.

No matter how you look at it, most of the sky-is-falling scenarios predicted by the No on I-502 crowd either failed to materialize or proved to be the opposite of what they predicted. Keep that in mind, Ohio, as you prepare to vote on legalization this fall and pot smokers tell you we’d all be better off remaining criminals until something better comes along.

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland 2015.