Our Voice: Live up to campaign promise and use marijuana tax money to educate state youths

September 27, 2013 

US NEWS MARIJUANA 5 MCT

Individually-packaged and labeled products offered by Ganja Gourmet in Denver, Colorado, include marijuana-infused candy, seen here in the business's retail space on April 17, 2013. (Dustin Bradford/MCT)

DUSTIN BRADFORD — MCT

Fewer people smoke than used to. And even those who continue to smoke know it adversely affects their health.

Why the change?

Education and marketing -- thanks, in large part, to a class action suit against the tobacco companies.

Cigarettes now are labeled as "dangerous to your health." Joe Camel has been replaced with images of patients with their voice boxes removed.

It's no wonder that fewer kids are taking up that nasty habit.

Today we're thinking of another habit we would like kids to shun.

Last year, voters passed an initiative to legalize marijuana use for adults in Washington. One of the selling points of that campaign was that some of the tax money generated from the new law would be dedicated to educating kids about why they shouldn't smoke pot.

The proponents of the initiative likened the anti-marijuana campaigns to the anti-smoking campaigns. We're ready for that message to take hold.

Our law sends a mixed message to kids.

When marijuana was illegal it must have been because it is bad for you, like meth and cocaine. Now, at least in this state, marijuana is an acceptable substance -- for adults.

It's a double standard.

It doesn't take kids long to see through that hypocrisy. It can't be much of a leap for kids to believe that if pot is OK for adults, it must be OK for the younger population as well. It's all a matter of timing.

But here's what the statistics tell us: Kids are already using pot.

A 2012 study showed that about a quarter of all high school seniors used marijuana in the previous month, then an illegal substance for all ages. The trend, in fact, has stayed mostly flat for about 20 years.

And although more kids now smoke pot than cigarettes, it's not because marijuana use is up; it's because cigarette use is down -- way down.

That's almost exclusively because of the anti-smoking campaigns.

We would like to see the same emphasis put into an anti-marijuana campaign.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter to the Senate panel describing the state's plans for restricting the distance pot can be sold from schools and requiring childproof packaging for the product.

It's a start, but it's not enough.

Not marketing to kids is not the same as an aggressive education campaign.

Last year, we recommended voters reject the state's initiative to legalize marijuana. The voters took the other route.

This year, we are fully expecting the anti-marijuana campaigns to start rolling out in earnest.

Education goes a long way toward people making good decisions for themselves. Apparently what we're doing now with teenagers and marijuana isn't working.

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