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Originally published April 17, 2014 at 3:09 PM | Page modified April 18, 2014 at 11:34 AM

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Editorial: Reject pot scare tactics, like drug-dog patrols at Roosevelt High School

With legal marijuana stores to open within months, now is the time for a smart, fact-based prevention campaign aimed at teens.


Seattle Times Editorial

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HERE is an image from a War on Drugs time capsule: drug-sniffing dogs sticking their noses in Roosevelt High School students’ lockers searching for marijuana.

Washington voters in 2012 rejected a prohibitionist approach by legalizing marijuana. Policy shouldn’t slip back. But the drug-dog idea, as proposed by parents in a recent Seattle Times story, reflects genuine anxiety about raising teenagers in the new world of legal marijuana. In search of the future, parents are reaching to the past.

Instead of drug-dog patrols, the state owes fulfillment of the Initiative 502 campaign promise to voters.

That promise was clear: marijuana tax revenues would buy a robust, fact-based prevention campaign, particularly aimed at underage users.

Rejecting the scaremongering tactics used for generations, parents and teenagers need to fully inform themselves about marijuana. And with marijuana stores set to open within months, now is the time to make good on the campaign promise.

Colorado, Washington’s twin in the marijuana experiment, was proactive, spending federal highway funds on public-service announcements before stores opened.

Washington instead is waiting for the spring of marijuana tax revenue to gurgle up and fund prevention efforts. That’s a mistake.

Marijuana tax revenues won’t materialize for months, and won’t be large enough initially to make a difference.

Instead, Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration should get creative. State agencies are preparing educational materials, but there is no budget to distribute them.

That is a fixable problem. Form public-private partnerships with foundations and youth-focused organizations. Or even the new marijuana industry itself could take the charge — it should be eager to prove it won’t target teens.

University of Washington emeritus professor Roger Roffman, the state’s leading marijuana researcher and an Initiative 502 sponsor, advocated for prevention efforts in a letter to Inslee last June. He didn’t hear back. The governor should dust off the letter.

In approving Initiative 502, voters rejected the utter failure of decades-long prohibition. Rather than return to failed policies, Washington must enter the future informed.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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