As the first marijuana retail stores opened throughout Washington earlier this month, the Washington State Traffic Commission (WSTC) launched a television campaign to warn drivers of the ramifications of driving while under the influence of marijuana. The campaign began at the beginning of July to coincide with DUI emphasis patrols throughout the state and features 3, 30 second ads.
The ads show people attempting to perform simple tasks while impaired by marijuana and then warns people that while the marijuana might now be legal, a person can still be arrested for DUI if they drive while impaired. There is a commercial featuring a person attempting to start a bbq, one with an individual attempting to shoot a free throw in a game of basketball and another of a person trying to set up a new flat screen television. Not surprisingly, all 3 commercials depict the high person as having extreme difficulty performing these simple tasks. Interestingly, they were all men.
When Initiative 502 was overwhelming approved by the voters in November of 2012, it also established a "per se" legal limit for THC (the active ingredient of marijuana) as 5 nanograms in a person's blood. While the legal limit for alcohol has been studied extensively over the past several decades, the limit for marijuana was set without substantial research. Habitual smokers tend to have built up a significant tolerance to marijuana.
Given that these commercials just began to air over the past few weeks, it is too early to tell what type of impact they will have on people. Personally, I have not seen a substantial increase in drivers accused of driving under the influence of marijuana since it became legal. Another factor might be that the Washington State Patrol has many open job openings for Troopers statewide. With less law enforcement on the roadway, there is naturally fewer DUI arrests. There is no data to show, however, that there are few people driving while impaired-either by alcohol, marijuana or other mind-altering drugs.
As more data becomes available, I will continue with updates.