Restrictions still apply to pot use in state


Marijuana is technically legal in Washington state — or, at least, semi-legal — and that’s not going to change. The voters have spoken.

But not all embrace its use.

Once the state government finally figures out how to implement the law (approved in 2012) this two-minds on marijuana use could create situations that will derail promising careers in the military and in the private sector.

Private businesses that have had anti-drug policies and mandate drug testing for new employees are under no obligation to change their policies under the voter-approved law. As a result, some people smoking pot in their homes — which is legal — will be violating the businesses’ drug policies and either won’t get hired or might get fired.

And while these policies are supposed to be implemented uniformly and fairly, that’s not always the case when people are involved. Some companies will be tough on enforcement while others will be very lax — the don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach. And a few could pick and choose depending on the employees involved.

This will create a gray area that will add further confusion.

But where there will be no confusion is in the military. At Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside of Tacoma it was made crystal clear the use of marijuana is prohibited by active military as well as reserves and National Guard.

“Our soldiers understand what’s legal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, senior Army officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, told the News Tribune of Tacoma last week. “From our perspective, marijuana or any type of illegal drug is something that’s not tolerated.”

Soldiers have been warned not to bring pot on the base or have it with them off base.

“All soldiers and airmen are hereby ordered not to possess or use marijuana at any time,” Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty wrote in a memo to troops in Washington state shortly after voters gave marijuana use thumbs up. That policy will be aggressively enforced.

Last year, according to numbers requested by The News Tribune, Lewis-McChord carried out 86,956 urinalyses or about two tests per soldier per year. Of those test, 1,123 tested positive for drug use — 396 of them for marijuana.

In the military, given all the warnings, the drug test essentially becomes an IQ test.

In the private sector, that gray area could get a lot of sharp folks unemployed. That’s really not the state’s responsibility, but making sure people fully understand the law is.

Some of the tax money collected from marijuana sales should be used to inform and counsel citizens on exactly what the marijuana law means. It’s not a right to smoke dope. The state should include warnings that pot use remains against federal law and employers can establish their own policies.

Yes, marijuana use is no longer a state crime, but there are still strict prohibitions in force. Think of it as being semi-legal at this point.


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