Our Voice: Pot money can help provide teens with the info to make good choices

March 26, 2013 

A recent news story said that pot is more popular with teens than tobacco. We're not surprised.

In fact, the statewide study showed teens are twice as likely to smoke pot as cigarettes.

It sounds a little scary, but it may actually be good news.

In the last 15 years, smoking among teens has dropped.

It used to be that smoking was cool. Now, not so much.

The anti-smoking campaign has done much to educate the public, and especially teens, about the dangers of tobacco use.

Our hope is that pot use soon will be on the decline as well.

In the November election, this editorial board did not support the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.

Our decision was based largely on the difficulties of passing a state law that was at odds with federal law.

However, there was one appealing aspect to the initiative -- one that nearly swayed us to support the measure and makes us see a silver lining in the fact it passed.

Part of the money that will be raised by legalizing and regulating marijuana sales will be earmarked for educating teens about the dangers of drug use -- specifically marijuana.

Just like the tobacco companies were forced to pay for ads that expose the dangers of smoking, revenues from marijuana sales will be used to mount an anti-drug campaign.

At least, that's what the voters were promised.

But there is that lag time.

The money for the anti-pot education doesn't kick in until there is some actual money coming in. In the meantime, by passing a law that says "dope is OK" some teens might get the mistaken idea that "dope is OK."

Last week, we had a conversation with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

His first few weeks in the office have been busy, and one area that has been particularly time consuming has been implementing Initiative 502, legalizing marijuana.

In Ferguson's words, this is a "complex law" and so far "nothing is settled" at the federal level. So, it's not making any money yet.

The recent survey -- the one that showed pot use is up -- showed that cigarette use and alcohol use are down among our teens. Both of those substances are legal and available to adults.

It's clear that education is an effective way to deter underage smoking and drinking. We expect it will be the same with marijuana -- eventually.

We're concerned about the time gap. The anti-marijuana campaign shouldn't lag. By the time the education piece gets going, there will be some necessary "unlearning."

Although we didn't support the measure, it passed. It is now "the will of the people." As such, we expect the education side of the bill to be robust and expedient.

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