Legalization of marijuana not the way to go | Kevin Endejan | Reporter's Notebook

I typically lean left when it comes to politics (right-wing conspiracy theorists feel free to gasp now at the idea of the liberal media).

But there was one issue on the Washington ballot this year I sided with many of my conservative friends.

The passing of I-502, the bill making it legal for adults over 21 to possess an ounce of marijuana, is just asking for trouble — in particular on the road.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that every day 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes.

I've heard marijuana supporters argue marijuana has "never killed anyone." To that, I call B.S.

If you think it's safe to get behind the wheel while stoned, well, put down the pipe for a second.

Statistics show reaction time slows significantly for those under the influence of weed. Let's face it, when behind the wheel the ability to react is THE key element to safe driving.

I know that, like alcohol, Washington has laws against driving under the influence of marijuana and other drugs. But really how easy is it to detect? First, it often requires an officer known as "a drug recognition expert" to come to the scene. Then, if he determines the driver is impaired, the violator will likely be arrested and taken for a blood draw to determine the level of THC in their system.

It's great that there's a means of enforcement, but it's far more complicated than someone blowing into a breathalyzer.

And that's what concerns me.

With the changed law that kicks in Dec. 6, people will feel a lot more comfortable using marijuana, which will in turn result in more impaired drivers.

This idea was recently reinforced by the King County Prosecutor’s Office dismissing several cases of marijuana possession. If there are no ramifications for possessing the drug, why worry about getting behind the wheel after smoking a joint?

Whether it's a situation as serious as watching for children in a crosswalk, or something as minor as following an unaware driver going 30 mph down the interstate — I see nothing but problems on the horizon.

Let's also not forget the implications of marijuana becoming more readily available to those under 21, and the known fact it is a gateway drug to other forms of substance abuse.

When it comes down to it, there is really only one other winner of I-502 besides the stoners — connivence stores. I hope the local 7-Eleven stores are stocking up on Funyons and corn dogs.


Kevin Endejan is Assistant Editor of the Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter. He can be contacted at 425-391-0363, ext. 5054 or kendejan@issaquahreporter.com.

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