Ballot measure summary
As described by the Secretary of State's office, the measure shall "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."
This measure removes state-law prohibitions against producing, processing, and selling marijuana, subject to licensing and regulation by the liquor control board; allow limited possession of marijuana by persons aged twenty-one and over; and impose 25% excise taxes on wholesale and retail sales of marijuana, earmarking revenue for purposes that include substance-abuse prevention, research, education, and healthcare. Laws prohibiting driving under the influence would be amended to include maximum thresholds for THC blood concentration.
After approval, Initiative 502 implements over a period of a year or more. Legal possession limits go into effect on December 6, 2012, and the state has until December 1, 2013, to establish other key rules.
The initiative shall legalize use of marijuana products purchased from state authorized sources for adults 21 and over and focus law enforcement resources on DUI prosecution as well as violent and property crimes. Unlicensed cannabis will still be illegal, including personal "grows" in one's own home, except for medical cannabis as regulated under RCW 69.51A.
Part I identifies the goal of the initiative and authorizes the Washington State Liquor Control Board "to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age and older, and add a new threshold for driving under the influence of marijuana."
Part II establishes various definitions, including one which distinguishes "marijuana" from hemp and other parts of the cannabis plant based on its THC content.
Part III establishes a license system for marijuana producers, processors and retailers. Initial licenses shall be $250 with an annual renewal fee of $1000. Rules prohibit producers and processors from having any financial interest in retailers, much like the three-tier system for hard liquor in control states. This section also makes it clear that selling or distributing unlicensed marijuana remains illegal, setting limits on the maximum amount one may possess. Adults 21 years or older may possess up to "one ounce of useable marijuana," 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form or "any combination" of all three.
Part IV establishes a "dedicated marijuana fund" for all revenue received by the liquor control board, and explicitly earmarks any surplus from this new revenue for health care (55%), drug abuse treatment and education (25%), with 1% for marijuana-related research at University of Washington and Washington State University, most of the remainder going to the state general fund. A March 2012 analysis by the state Office of Financial Management estimated annual revenues above $560 million for the first full year, rising thereafter. February 2011 analysis of the similar Washington House Bill 1550 estimated annual state and county law-enforcement savings of approximately $22 million. OFM's final, official analysis did not include law-enforcement savings, but estimated five year revenues at approximately $1.9 billion from an assumed retail price of $12 per gram. Proponents of I-502 have posted a pie chart showing annual dollar-per-purpose earmarks, based on these projections.
Part V on "driving under the influence of marijuana" sets a per se DUI limit of active blood THC levels at greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per milliliter. Some medical cannabis advocates are concerned that this will lead to DUI convictions for medicinal cannabis users, who are driving with blood THC levels greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per milliliter