Our Voice: It's past time to educate people about marijuana

March 14, 2014 

More people in Washington are driving while under the influence of marijuana. That's not surprising, because pot is legal in our state now.

Well, maybe it's a little surprising, because there is no place to legally buy the stuff yet.

But even if there were places to legally obtain marijuana, people are not supposed to be driving under the influence of it. Washington's DUI laws still are in place and, if anything, more strict than before.

One of the selling points to get voters to approve legalized recreational marijuana was the education/drug use prevention component in the law.

It's a chicken-egg problem.

We passed the law, but we have yet to see the education.

Some critics say the state already is late to the game when it comes to pot education. We have to agree.

Education has proved to be a great deterrent among tobacco users. We expect similar results with marijuana.

Our fellow marijuana state, Colorado, has already started its education program.

To be fair, we can see why Washington hasn't yet geared up this arm of the law. Between licensing, pot bans, banking woes and the clash between federal and state law, there has been a lot to do. And, it always comes down to money.

Some of the tax money generated from legal pot sales is earmarked for drug education and prevention. That money is not coming in yet.

No money -- no education, even though the need clearly is here.

So, here is some free education until the state starts its official program -- which we hope is soon.

Just because adults can, or soon will legally be able to, buy and smoke pot in Washington, driving while impaired -- from any substance -- still is an irresponsible and illegal strategy.

It always will be.

And mixing alcohol with marijuana is an especially bad, and dangerous, idea.

There are two ways to test positive for marijuana.

One is if you have active THC in your system, meaning you have recently used pot and are still experiencing some degree of a high. These results among drivers are up by 25 percent since last year, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The second test will show if you have used pot in recently, say the last month or so, but you aren't impaired by it. These tests are up by 60 percent.

Testing positive for either one can get you a ticket, and the threshold is pretty low.

Driving while drunk or high (or tired or enraged) impairs your judgment and slows your reaction times.

To paraphrase from the slogan writers at Nike, "Just don't do it."

As far as the official education from the state goes, last year would have been the best time start.

But now is the second best time.

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