There's a healthy crowd down here, sports fans, and tons of snacks, thank the motherfucking lord!
As mentioned earlier, Alison Holcomb will be arguing the pro-tax-and-regulate perspective on behalf of New Approach Washington. Taking the con side will be John Toker, a spokesman for Sensible Washington, which would rather see marijuana legalized outright in lieu of being taxed and regulated.
But right now Ben Livingston, head of the Cannabis Defense Coalition, is schooling us on all about non-verbal hand cues to throw down when we agree with debaters ("hand twinkles"), disagree with debaters (downward hand twinkles), and to censure them for being off topic (creating a GIANT "T" WITH OUR HANDS).
Eli and I will be drunkenly gchatting the debate for both of you reading Slog right now. Stay tuned for our updates, after the jump!
Eli: His name is Toker? Really? Isn't that an unfair advantage in this debate? Sent at 7:18 PM on Friday
me: Too bad he looks like he has no sense of humor about his name. Dude looks like ichipod crane (sic throughout, on account of whiskey fingers). Sent at 7:19 PM on Friday
Eli: Don't forget, Cienna, that as Holcomb says we are only "in a moment in time on the continuum of the conversation." I feel better already!
me: Sorry if that seems mean, Toker, but suggestion: Don't cross any bridges on horseback when getting home tonight.
See what I mean?
me: Holy shit, Alison's talking about 1970. I feel like I'm reading a Seattle Weekly feature story...
Eli: Reagan? 1980s? What happened???? We fell off the moment of time into the continuum of the worm hole and ended up back with Reagan. Arghhh!!!! Sent at 7:22 PM on Friday
Eli: (If people watching at home need a translation: Holcomb is giving a long opening statement about how the entire history of humanity up to this point leads to only one conclusion: she is right.) (Which is probably true.)
me: Also, Alison is right on another front: Her hair definitely doesn't look like a football helmet. At all.
Alison: "There will not be a marijuana legalization effort on the California ballot this year." Alison is so fucking smart, but I think in instances like this, her smarts hurt her. Her brain is so crammed with knowledge that she veers into the weeds, talking about the history of marijuana to hell and back.
me: For instance: I have no idea what the fuck she's talking about right now—research from the 90's on blah blah blah? but it all leads back to VOTE YES ON 502.
Eli: Pass the rice krispie treat.
me: Toker's first comment: "Yes that's my real name."
Eli: Oh boy. Toker has FIVE misconceptions that he's going to dispel. Strap in. Misconception #1: I-502 legalizes marijuana in Washington State. Eli: (His point is that all I-502 does is create a "legal bubble" in which marijuana is legal, but if you step outside that bubble and, say, pass a joint to a friend, "that's a Class C felony.") Misconception #2: The idea that storefronts are going to happen.
me: He said "moot!" It's all "moot!" DEBATE'S OVER. THE END. NEXT.
Eli: ("They're simply not," Toker says. State workers are not going to be running pot stores, as Toker says the measure envisions, because those employees will fear federal prosecution: "I think it's highly unlikely that you're going to see a state employee put themselves at risk.") Misconception #3: The DUI provision. [Background here] Sent at 7:31 PM on Friday Eli: (Toker says the measure's penalties for people who drive stoned are "very problematic." And while he understands that having a DUI clause is an attempt to "connect with the mainstream," he just thinks that it legislates "crazy" assumptions about pot smoking and impairment that are dangerous to have on the books.)
me: Nick Licata, moderator, calls Time! How many misconceptions did he get through?
Eli: It's a mystery. Toker ran out of time.
me: I just want them to duke it out, Gladiator style.
Eli: Misconception #4 and #5?
me: Fuck all this nerd arguing.
Eli: People are not using their dangle hands. They're shouting Bad manners already!
me: I don't think anyone has a fucking clue what to dangle about. Sent at 7:35 PM on Friday
me: Holcomb now says that there's not enough research about marijuana driving impairment but that no one wants impaired drivers on the road, drinking or otherwise. Now Toker is waiving a small white piece of paper that's supposed to convince us that pot smokers will crash. Nobody can read that piece of paper. It could be a dry cleaning receipt or my mom's phone number, who knows? Sent at 7:37 PM on Friday
Eli: I need to describe this graph Toker's waving around: A horizontal line that then slopes upward toward four or so different dots with words connected to them, some red fonts, some black fonts, all which = HOLCOMB WANTS TO COME CITIZENS ARREST YOU AND YOUR JOINTS WHILE YOU'RE TRYING TO MERGE!
me: Toker: "I'm not going to vote for I-502 because I can't look at patients, cannot in good conscience take away their driving privileges to keep my ounce at home." Then, Toker utters the most awkward sentence of the evening: "I'd love to walk into a store and buy 10 doobies. That'd be great."
Eli: Toker just wants to talk about the DUI provision all night. Because he knows it's his best way to cast doubt on the measure with this audience. Holcomb needs to change the subject, not rebut.
me: Finally: Audience questions! me: Wait, no, shit. Now they're arguing about the receipt Toker showed that nobody can read.
Eli: He wants to talk about his crazy chart. Change the subject! Eli: Allison! Stop talking about "where the red line crosses five nanograms." What????? You are in a trap. Sent at 7:43 PM on Friday
me: Toker cites some study about there not being enough studies to know about marijuana impairment while driving. Aaand we have our first audience twinkles of the evening, ladies and gentlemen!
Eli: That seemed important. (Maybe.) The DUI blood test only looks for "active" THC. So you have to be really, currently stoned to get in trouble.
Eli: Not residual stoned or something.
me: Yeah, Dom wrote about it.
me: Holcomb answers that there has to be probability that you're high, you have to give them a reason to pull you over, and they have to believe that what's causing your impairment is not alcohol related to take you in for a blood test.
Eli: ? Eli: Ok, so basically everyone in this room drives around stoned all day long and is really worried about a) traffic stops b) checkpoints c) blood tests.
me: Yes. You are correct, sir. Maybe we should just give them all golf carts to drive. Lower speeds, less risk of accidents. Plus, fun!
Eli: Are we going to talk for the whole two hours about this DUI stuff?
me: That's what it looks like.
Eli: Ichibod Crane: "...it assumes impairment can be measured through the humors of the body."
me: Oh, shit! Toker said "moot!" again! Another moot point! Get your shit together, Alison. (PS. Sexy shoes.)
Eli: WHAT??? Also, this measure legalizes blood-letting. We are now in the 18th Century.
me: Toker tells story of a black guy being pulled over for a seat belt violation, pot was taken from him, took him in for a blood draw, got a DUI charge in the mail a few weeks later. Says that passage of I-502 would mean many more so-called "undesirables" would be arrested.
Eli: THANK YOU NICK LICATA! This is the last question on DUI. "Why no legal exclusion for medical marijuana patients who drive stoned?"
me: Holcomb is pointing out that its because not all medical marijuana patients use pot the same way—some patients use a little, some more. Using it to justify the DUI part. Crowd is against her; people are snorting. Sad twinkles, Alison!
Eli: And people are making "T's" with their hands to show she's off topic and not answering the question. Sent at 7:57 PM on Friday
me: I think she answered the question. For what it's worth. me: Oh, shit. Room's clearly stacked against I-502. More twinkles for Toker and I don't even know what the fuck he's saying right now—its very circuitous. Maybe the twinkles are for his dashing chin beard. Holcomb says licensing provisions would only apply to dispensaries who want to sell to adults 21+ that want to sell to anyone, not just med marijuana patients. Would leave current med. dispensaries alone. People are shaking their heads.
Eli: Lots of twinkle hands for Toker right now. Eli: He's saying they want real legalization, not this phony I-502 business.
me: Toker says no dispensary licenses will be issued at all. That state employees won't be compelled to break the law. Holcomb, who's a motherfucking LAWYER, pushes back, saying that he's ignoring the reality that it's happening right now in the state of NM and even in Seattle. Toker has some bullshit middling response. It's a non-answer. Holcomb has him.
Eli: I'm twinkling. But I'm not telling you why.
me: I twinkled in my seat a little with Alison's last answer. That fucking rocked. I wish she brought that game all night.
Eli: Yeah, she's also too much on the defensive. Toker just raises questions about / casts aspersions on the measure, and she's forced into this defensive crouch of try to reassure people he's not right. We are now hearing a question from "a former romance editor."
me: I wish she'd get to her fucking question already. Keep it short, lady.
Eli: WHERE DID ALL THE ROMANCE EDITORS GO????
me: She's talking about Willie Nelson now, and now question in sight...
Eli: And she edited the romance out of that question entirely.
me: What was her fucking question? I missed it.
Eli: I have no idea, and I was listening, but Holcomb says: "You have exactly identified the problem." You know what the problem is; If these people knew about ROMANCE, they would not be here on a Friday night. Sorry everyone here.
me: Never apologize for the truth, Eli. I think she basically asked, "why are people so dumb?" and in response, Alison is once again telling everyone the history of medical marijuana in WA state.
Eli: Yes. But everyone is acting like the nonsequiturs are DEEP.
me: "In the 1920's, we were a nation of drunkards," says Alison. Holy shit, I'm going to twinkle myself for real, here. This is some funny shit.
Eli: Holcomb: "In the 20s, we were a nation of DRUNKARDS." TRUTH.
me: Another nonsequitur that basically ends with, "can't we all be friends?" Eli is laughing so hard that he had to leave the room. Journalism, ladies and gents!
Eli: I ran out of the room because Willie Nelson came to the mic and basically asked: "Can't we all just get along?" And then started talking about blog comment threads. But I'm back now.
me: Holcomb responded by quoting Marie Claire magazine. Wow. me: Guy at the mic says that prices will go up 250 percent, bud will be $40 a gram, with legalization. Sent at 8:16 PM on Friday me: Holcomb responds that current costs are driven by it's illegal production, not the agricultural costs of producing a crop—prices right now are imaginary and driven by prohibition. She says that prices will be driven down with legalization and will be roughly where they're at now, when accounting for the taxes that accompany legalization/regulation. As the guy returns to his seat behind me, he mutters, "I totally disagree."
Eli: Next man is currently saying there are 58,000 products (exactly!) that can be made with cannabis. Sent at 8:22 PM on Friday
Eli: Holcomb: "Maybe I don't understand your question." (You are not alone, Allison Holcomb.)
me: We're going to get kicked out of this joint, Eli. And when we do, I'm buying you a drink.
Eli: We can run faster than everyone here. Don't worry.
me: Now they're talking about the Federal Hemp Industrial Act. There are some serious nerds in the room. We are out nerded for sure.
Eli: The Hemp Industrial Complex!
me: Mimi rolls up to the mic, a former registered nurse. Tells her story of working in rural and urban home health. Question: Given that I-502 will make it illegal for patients to drive if they're over the limit—and she promises that they will be over the limit, she promises that she'll be over the limit and is not impaired....
Eli: She was even more present-sense about it: "I am over the limit, and I am not impaired." Sent at 8:27 PM on Friday
me: Finally, Mimi's question: What are you going to do, Alison, with hundreds of thousands of people who are impaired and can't drive? That are now homebound and will die alone as shut ins?
Eli: Woah, Mimi is basically accusing Holcomb of leaving people to die, stranded in their homes and unable to drive because they'll get convicted of DUIs for being over the limit. Sick, frail people.
me: Holcomb responds by explaining that there's been a medical marijuana law in WA since 1998. DUIs are happening now, she says, for people exhibiting impairment. "They're still going to have probable cause to arrest you, still going to have to prove you're impaired, still going to have to draw your blood. People being charged right now are being convicted with less that 5 nanograms in their system... this is happening."
me: No questions this time—we've dropped all pretense of asking questions, apparently—but the guy at the mic is basically arguing that WA cops will go around arresting everyone and eventually handing out felonies for smoking pot while driving. Holcomb counters by saying that's paranoid bullshit, and that it presumes that WA cops are worse—are out to get pot smokers—more than the cops in the 14 other states where pot is currently legal. Once again, she's showing her smarts but the audience still isn't buying it. Here's what I'm learning from this whole debate: Marijuana users are a special breed of paranoid. Delicate flowers, all of 'em. And Toker's totally playing into that.
Eli: Who is Toker to talk about someone wanting a donut break? Sent at 8:38 PM on Friday Eli: (He was mocking police for wanting sweet snacks, when the snack table here is covered with them.)
me: Guy with a beard who asked a nonquestion just tried to grill Alison on how many dispensaries would be in Seattle, and basically intimated that she didn't know her shit AND there's a grand conspiracy going on, somewhere. I think I've reached my limits with these "Sensible Washington" people.
Eli: Also, now we are answering a question with a question. Downward spiral. This forum is cached. Sent at 8:42 PM on Friday
me: Agreed. And Alison has the patience of a saint. These questions are getting stupider and more attacky. Woman is accusing her of allowing medical marijuana patients to wrack up felonies (while neatly ignoring that these patients are at risk of that already).
Eli: Yeah, it's Allison against the world. (Meaning: The world of people who show up at City Hall at 7 p.m. on a Friday to deliver death by 1,000 cuts to a proposed statewide initiative.)
me: They're getting down to their closing arguments, thankfully.
Eli: Phew. Here we go. Closing statements. Holcomb says the question is this: "Will you be in a better position to advocate your point of view once the State of Washington has said we want to legalize marijuana? Or not?" Toker says: "Whether you vote yes or no, we already lost the moment they put this per se DUI standard into the initiative."
me: Once again, it comes down to DUIs. Toker makes a sarcastic, melodramatic plea to Mimi, the woman in the wheelchair who accused Alison of killing home bound patients, to "please give up your driving rights so I can have my weed!" And ends by calling the initiative a "lasting victory for the drug Czar." Squeezing in a last-minute drug czar reference to ram his point home, nice!
Eli: And, the forum ends with applause and a shout of "Just vote no!" from the audience.