MOUNT VERNON — With marijuana retail stores set to open in early July, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) wants to make it clear that while marijuana use may be legal, driving under its influence is not.
To remind people that driving high is illegal, the commission is launching an advertising campaign called “Drive High, Get a DUI.” The 30-second television commercials show people attempting common activities while high. On-screen text tells viewers that while it is legal to do these things under the influence of marijuana, it is still not legal to drive under the influence.
The campaign coincides with the kickoff of State Patrol DUI-emphasis patrols. Starting July 1, state troopers will have extra patrols out on the highways. The campaign and the extra patrols are part of Target Zero, a program that strives to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030.
The most common drug found in drug-impaired fatal and serious-injury crashes is marijuana, according to a State Patrol marijuana fact sheet.
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“If we suspect someone is driving under the influence of marijuana, we would apply for a search warrant and have their blood drawn at the hospital,” said Chad Clark, chief of patrol operations with the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.
Initiative 502, approved by voters in 2012, did not provide funding for public education before legalization, but WTSC sees this campaign as critical to prevent DUIs.
The ad campaign and extra patrols are paid for by the commission. The Colorado Department of Transportation produced and aired the commercials earlier this year in Colorado, where marijuana has been legal for more than five months.
Under Initiative 502, adults age 21 and older in Washington may legally posses one ounce or less of marijuana, 16 ounces of a marijuana-infused product in solid form and 72 ounces of a marijuana-infused product in liquid form. Consuming marijuana in view of the general public is still a civil infraction.
A DUI offender serves at least one day in jail and may be fined up to $5,000.