Marijuana Coverage: A Q&A with Domonic Holden of Seattle’s The Stranger

Dominic Holden is a writer for The Stranger, a Seattle based weekly publication. He has been writing articles there since 2003. One of his first articles was about the subject of Marijuana and it has continued from there. Marijuana news is not his sole priority but it is a topic he covers on a semi-regular basis.

Q: I see you have written more than a few articles about marijuana laws. What has made you so interested in reporting on the state of the drug?

I answer this question at length in this piece: The short answer is that marijuana prohibition–and the drug war–has become an unfair proxy for racism. It continues to ensnare racial minorities with severe penalties at a much higher rate than white people, even though minorities and whites use drugs at roughly the same rates. This is a civil rights issue. In addition, legalizing marijuana is a responsible use of law enforcement resourses, gets drug money out of dangerous cartels, and harnesses tax revenue for matters of public interest. In the end, marijuana laws have failed to reduce abuse or crime, and it appears to create more abuse and crime. It’s time to take the approach with marijuana that proved effective when we ended alcohol prohibition.

Q: Your state of Washington recently passed the legalization of marijuana. How soon do you think people are going to be able to walk into a gas station and pick up marijuana cigarettes?

Pot won’t be sold at gas stations, according to Initiative 502 that passed last November, but rather from authorized marijuana stores. Adults could buy marijuana at those stores as soon as this December. However, if the federal government challenges WA’s marijuana law, it could be tied up in the courts for an indeterminate amount of time.

Q: Do you think they will handle it like alcohol? And if so should it be regulated the same way?

Read about how I-502 works here: Yes, I think marijuana should be regulated similarly alcohol.

Q: Drug laws have been used to attack minorities ever since the war on drugs began. Legalizing marijuana is one way to stop such discrimination but that still leaves many other substances that police can use to prey upon minorities. Do you think drug laws besides those regarding marijuana should be reexamined?

Yes, all drug laws should be reconsidered. This doesn’t mean they should all be legalized outright like alcohol, but I believe we need to consider harm reduction strategies for hard drugs and decriminalize possession of hard drugs in small quantities intended for adult personal use. This would be a huge step to advance civil rights in this country, lower law enforcement expenses, and focus taxpayer resources on public health strategies that actually reduce harms associated with drug abuse.

Q: In your article “It’s Not About the Stoner” you talk about I-502, which would put in place a legal driving limit for smokers. Do you think there is an accurate way to measure intoxication concerning pot?

Measuring levels of active THC in the blood are not a perfect measure of impairment from cannabis, but it remains the most accurate gauge we have.

Q: What do you think the future status of weed will be throughout the country? Do you think Oregon will be next to legalize?

I think California and perhaps Oregon–and maybe other states–will legalize marijuana in 2016. Presidential election years tend to attract young, progressive, diverse electorates that are more inclined to support marijuana law reform. Slowly, other states will follow suit. But, like gay marriage and medical marijuana, it will be a long slog.

Q: Why is legalization happening now?

Academics and activists have been advocating for marijuana legalization for a long time, about twenty years in earnest, and their messages have caught on with the public at large. I think advocates have made cogent, sensible arguments that are very persuasive. The counter arguments (about a gateway to harder drugs, sending a confusing message to our kids, etc.) are usually illogical and they don’t withstand intellectual scrutiny. In the end, there are more clear benefits to legalization that to maintaining marijuana prohibition. So bit by bit, more voters support legalization–reaching a majority of Americans in the last few years.

Q: Do people ever make the assumption that you are a pot user because you write about it?

All the time.

Thank you for your time!

You’re welcome.

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