Loading

Can This Man Ever Tell The Truth?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 20, 2008

    What do you know?  Drug Czar John Walters has been outed as a liar — again. I mean, seriously, let’s hope this guy is more honest when he’s filing his taxes than he is when he’s talking about pot. 

    The Czar’s latest reefer faux pas? According to a previous, widely distributed ONDCP press release: “Marijuana affects … many of the skills required for safe driving. … These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana.” 

    Twenty-four hours, huh?  Well, an Israeli investigative team recently tested Walters’ claim — giving subjects high and low doses of THC and then measuring their driving performance.  Their conclusion, “No THC effects were observed after 24 hours on any of the measures.” 

    This finding is not to say that concerns regarding motorists — especially teens — driving after smoking marijuana are not without merit. For example, the study’s authors found that pot, even at low doses, impaired drivers’ ability to maintain lane position and significantly increased subjects’ reaction time.

    Intriguingly, however, the investigators reported that marijuana’s most prominent impact on driving differed dramatically from that of alcohol.

    “Average speed was the most sensitive driving performance variable affected by both THC and alcohol but with an opposite effect,” authors concluded. “In particular, subjects seemed to be aware of their impairment after THC intake and tried to compensate by driving slower; alcohol seemed to make them overly confident and caused them to drive faster than in control sessions.”

    To hear my expanded thoughts on this study, check out NORML’s 5/19/08 podcast here, or download a copy of NORML’s report, “Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review,” available here.

    14 Responses to “Can This Man Ever Tell The Truth?”

    1. Stephen says:

      Actually, what he’s saying is not TECHNICALLY a lie. This is actually a very common little trick that government folks like to use to give people the impression that marijuana will make you drive poorly. However, they’re not saying that – only that it affects the skills that one uses while driving. Which is true: if you happen to be veering towards a semi, being high will impair your ability to react quickly. HOWEVER, countless government studies (done by virtually every major Anglophone country, including the US and UK) have shown that overall, driving ability is slightly better while stoned. Why? Because even though accidents are more likely to be bad, you’re less likely to get into the accident in the first place because you’re driving more slowly and more carefully.

      But yeah, this is language you see a lot in the reports – they say that driving requires skill x, and then say that study y shows that skill x is impaired by marijuana smoking, therefore driving skills are impaired by marijuana smoking. This distortion can be seen in this NIH press release: http://www.nida.nih.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol11N1/Marijuana.html

      While they have to admit in the article that studies show that “actual driving” isn’t impaired, they are sure to tout in the headline that “driving-related skills” are impaired.

    2. Phil E. Drifter says:

      You know, I hate to break it to you, but: “These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana.” and ““No THC effects were observed after 24 hours on any of the measures.” Well then, he’s right, isn’t he? The key word is ‘after.’

    3. Joseph "Ironman" Siler says:

      when I discuss cannabis, and I do quite often, one of the things I like to say is,”I would rather be on the highway with a thousand stoners, than ONE drunk”. I can say this with confidence because I used to be that one drunk, amazing I survived. Consuming cannabis had everything to do with it. It was, and is my safer alternative to alcohol consumption.

    4. Warren Osborn says:

      I am another former drunk who now uses marijuana exclusively. I too would rather be on the road with 1000 stoners than 1 drunk. I am not a father but if I had a kid I would be damned proud of that kid if the worst thing he ever did was smoke weed.

    5. En.ki says:

      God made marijuana,man made booze,who do you trust?

    6. xavier69 says:

      God made marijuana,man made booze,who do you trust? = that’s a young buck verse, Nice!!

      As for smoking weed and then driving, I agree that it is not safe. But, as the studies show, alcohol-related driving deaths are a top killer of American’s every year. And guess which one is legal!!

      If marijuana was regulated by the gov’t, they could step up the “DUI drugs” laws and make them comparable to drunk-driving laws. That would be the most logical thing to do. I feel that majority of marijuana users prefer not to drive under the influence. While, a lot of alcohol users continue to get behind the wheel!!

      My point is, current marijuana laws are ridiculous, and until the public becomes well informed on the issue, things will not change!!

    7. Tutone says:

      Phil is correct. They need to test effects before the 24 hours are up. A better strategy might be to look into the basis for Walters’ claim. What’s his source? It sounds like one of those assertions that he feels safe making because it’s rarely politically damaging to say negative things about marijuana, no matter how flimsy your evidence is or how misleading your claims are.

      He also relies, as another poster points out, on people making the association on their own between “impairment” and car accidents. The overall question that needs to be asked is, would marijuana legalization or more marijuana use lead to a higher accident/fatality rate than continued prohibition/lower use? There are far more variables that need to be considered than simply one’s reaction time. (Holland’s road fatality rate, which is much lower and has fallen much faster than ours over the last several decades, might suggest an answer. [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/automobiles/22SAFETY.html])

      You might actually impose less risk on others by smoking marijuana if 1) smoking keeps you off the road (i.e., you substitute smoking MJ for activities that require a lot of driving), 2) MJ makes you drive more cautiously, or 3) smoking MJ keeps you from drinking and driving.

      Indeed, a marijuana smoker who sits around and plays video games imposes far less risk on the general public than a wholesome outdoorsman who drives his SUV or pickup for hundreds of miles on dangerous country roads to go fishing or do something equally as ridiculous.

      Why should marijuana be put in a special category when it comes to acceptable recreation?

    8. […] Czar?s blog today, but strangely enough, I couldn?t find any mention of this story. One wonders if Drug Czar John Walters can even show his face in public today. Seriously, is there anything this man has ever said that […]

    9. Jeff D. says:

      As a pot smoker who tends to drive while under the influence of THC on occasion, i feel it gives me a better awareness for what is going on around me. i am more cautious and, unlike alcohol, i think about the consequences of a driving decision before it is carried out. also, not just me, but others can show that speed is more controlled while driving under the influence of THC than that of alcohol. as to the article stating a difficulty maintaining lane position while driving stoned… I’ve never seen that problem with friends of mine and myself, but as most know, cannabis effects everyone differently.

    10. Will says:

      I think our gov’t is losing their minds. What the hell are we still arresting minor marihuana offenders????

      Also, look up a girl by the name of Schappelle Corby…this story will make you irrate.

    11. Boone says:

      I think the big point here, is the fact that they wasted probably millions of dollars to tell us all that have smoked and got behind the wheel something we already knew…why not be more productive mr. drug czar and take a little bit of that wasted money and pay to have your head pulled out of your ass! I do not condone driving under the influence but come on, they are grasping at straws. then they expect us to believe it. just how dumb do they think we are?
      BoOnE

    12. Ixion says:

      24 hours? Where can I get what he’s smoking?

    13. Dafydd says:

      This is not bad advice, unlike a lot I have come across.

    14. JJ says:

      dude i ALWAYS follow the speed limit when i drive high. sometimes way under, even. not because i’m compensating consciously, i just do it. it’s great.

    Leave a Reply