April 18, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 52

Many questions remain about going 4-20 friendly

In our opinion

Psst! Psst!

Are you 4-20 friendly?

What?

You know, 4-20 friendly; do you smoke pot?

If you didn’t already know some of the new vernacular related to last November’s passage of Initiative 502, Washington’s “marijuana reform” measure, now you do.

And if the term is new to you, the Urban Dictionary traces 4-20 Friendly back more than 40 years. It originated at California’s San Rafael High School in 1971. Saturday, April 20 is celebrated by pot supporters as an official weed smoking day across the nation.

As result of the I-502 vote that passed handily – perhaps surprisingly by a 56-44 percent margin – being able to legally possess small quantities of pot by those 21 and older for personal use will be implemented over the remainder of the year.

Through passage, the Washington State Liquor Control Board became the agency that will oversee, regulate and sell marijuana through approved retailers. It ultimately might resemble how it was when the state was in the hard liquor business prior to the passage of Initiative 1183 in November 2011.

While those rules are still in the process of being finalized, becoming one of two states legalizing pot – Colorado passed its measure too this past November – the debates continue.

There are those who will vehemently argue the merits of both sides of the issue. Is it or is it not a gateway drug? How will the federal government, who still does not recognize the legality of marijuana, ultimately treat these two states once they craft their respective rules for distribution and use?

The winds of change keep blowing towards more Americans wanting the nation to legalize the drug. Just last week the Pew Research Center released the results of a nationwide survey indicating by a 52-45 percent margin that Americans think weed should be legal.

But a bigger question remains and it spawns many, many more what-ifs. It’s focused at business owners and how they deal with employees who may be in some way shape or form under the influence of pot on the job.

Some businesses have policies in place regarding alcohol consumption whereby being under the influence can lead to suspension or termination. But have they instituted similar policies for marijuana use, or do they consider the two drugs one in the same?

For what it’s worth, a 2009 study by Yale psychiatrist Richard Sewell found that alcohol is significantly more dangerous. Data from auto accidents, he found, indicated a drunk driver was approximately 10 times more likely to cause a fatal accident than a stoned driver.

So does that also hold true for a person who comes to work having toked some weed as opposed to slamming down a shot? Truth be told, pot is a whole different animal these days when compared to that of 40 years ago. It’s more potent in order to get those who smoke it that much more loaded.

Which brings up yet another question.

What if someone is high while on the job, gets hurt and Labor and Industries – the provider of on-the-job insurance in the state – denies a claim? Does it then fall on Social Security disability? Or is the person just flat out of luck?

The questions surrounding being 4-20 friendly are certainly not as simple as they would seem.

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