Risk of stoned drivers minimal with Prop. 19

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator August 9, 2010

    Our California NORML Coordinator, Dale Gieringer, has penned an informative viewpoint for the Sacramento Bee, addressing the one of the only two arguments against legalization of marijuana that still have any traction with the people: “Marijuana Mayhem on the Freeways!” (the other being: “My God! What About the Children!?!”)

    As usual, the prohibitionists’ stark warnings about the peril of stoned drivers after legalization only makes sense if you believe nobody is smoking pot now.

    Studies on marijuana and driving safety are remarkably consistent, though greatly under-publicized because they fail to support the government’s anti-pot line. Eleven different studies of more than 50,000 fatal accidents have found that drivers with marijuana-only in their system are on average no more likely to cause accidents than those with low, legal levels of alcohol below the threshold for DUI.

    The major exception is when marijuana is combined with alcohol, which tends to be highly dangerous.

    Several studies have failed to detect any increased accident risk from marijuana at all. The reason for pot’s relative safety appears to be that it tends to make users drive more slowly, while alcohol makes them speed up.

    Thus legalization could actually reduce accidents if more drivers used marijuana instead of alcohol, but it could also increase them if there were more combined use of the two.

    Nobody is saying “toke up and get behind the wheel”; our Principles of Responsible Use firmly states “The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis”. However, it would be naive to think every cannabis consumer uses responsibly.

    Geiringer addresses this by pointing out that California, the state with the easiest access to medical marijuana, has only the 14th-highest rating of states with marijuana-related accidents, while states like Indiana and South Carolina, some of the most hostile states with respect to marijuana, have far more marijuana-related accidents.  Within California, two of the most liberal cities for pot access, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, had zero marijuana-related accidents in the past year of record.

    US accident rates in general have been declining steadily since the 1960s, even as marijuana use reached its greatest rates in the late 1970s.  Even in the 1980s when marijuana legalization was at its lowest levels of support and throughout the 1990s and 2000s as medical marijuana spread from state to state, the highway accident rates have continued their steady decline.  It seems that whether marijuana is popular and legal or not, it makes no difference in roadway safety.

    Besides, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in California now and Prop 19 does nothing to undo that.  Californians can and have been arrested for drugged driving over the past fourteen years, even with legal medical marijuana.  Whatever cops are doing now to arrest pot-smoking drivers for DUID will still be done after Prop 19 passes.

    48 responses to “Risk of stoned drivers minimal with Prop. 19”

    1. Adam Stein says:

      Russ, the main arguments I see out there against Prop 19 is how much space exactly is 5 x 5, squar feet, cubic, hi, lo, etc.

      Many lies are out there but there does not seem to be a clear understanding of 5 x 5.

      [Russ responds: 25 square feet. A 5′ x 5′ patch. Or a 2.5′ by 10′ patch. Or one very long 50′ patch six inches wide. That’s my interpretation. Some say it might mean canopy space. I hope not. I suppose your plants could be very tall, say ten or fifteen feet. But you couldn’t stack a bunch of 5’x5′ cubes on each other, because the base of each would be added square footage.

      I think. I will ask around some of the smart people I know…]

    2. theUndignifiedone says:

      It’s much like Doug Benson said about going out to do something after you’ve smoked pot. “Screw it! We got a T.V. right here!” And that’s not a joke. When I’ve gotten high before, I didn’t want to go anywhere.

      As far as I’ve seen, the law would permit places to sell it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Cali would have Coffee Shops like Amsterdam. People would be encouraged to go and purchase their pot from a local legal source, much like an ABC Liquors. Then, you would take the pot home and smoke it in the comfort of your own home.

    3. EarlyKuyler says:

      What’s the difference between a drunk and a stoner?
      A drunk runs right through a stop sign, a stoner stops and waits for it to turn green.

    4. Dr.Dunkleosteus says:

      I too wondered if stacking would be allowed. A 2.5x10ft. patch, doubled up, would present a much larger usable area. Seedlings and juveniles on the bottom shelf, mature plants on the top shelf… for example.

      Side note, Fans of NORML on facebook just broke 200,000 a few hours ago! 221 (at last glance) more fans between then and now. Incredible.

    5. LWZA says:

      oh please and like we aren’t scared for our lives with all the drunk drivers out there…I am not worried AT ALL about a stoner driving…I would see them driving at or under the speed limit…no worries there

    6. LWZA says:

      yeah doug benson is a bit of a poor example for medical marijuana though…maybe montel williams? someone who needs it and doesnt feed the stereotype of stoner nation 420 high times yo

    7. James Strong says:

      To the man that will become the face of our national cause I am thankful for your service. If this republic thinks a soldier in one state should be jailed for self medicating weed while a soldier in another state will continue to receive all his benefits after poppin a pee test we are all created equal.

      If I serve alongside someone from Cali why when I go back home to Kansas I am somehow different than the guy I went to bootcamp and war with? We are all created equal.

      Why can this house of representatives allow the District of Columbus to legalize weed for medicinal purposes on a class I narcotic drug with no medicinal purposes? If it was no big deal to allow them medicinal marijuana why is it a big deal to allow all of us medicinal marijuana? Send your representative a email asking if they want to vote on that at all or just allow it for all of us. Ask them if they want you to send them some stories of someone in your state that may need medical marijuana maybe someone that just got back from the war that cant use weed unlike the guy from washington that thanks to them can use weed when he gets back from the war. We are all created equal.

      I use to think this was a state issue but thanks to that ruling about immigration I think this is a federal issue. If this government allows some of its population to do somethings legally why not allow all of us the same right. We are all created equal. I should have the same rights as a person living in Cali that gets to vote on pot as someone that lives in MIssissippi where they just started pulling Spice because they are concerned about the health risks. Walk into a Beer and Tobacco store and think I gotta get rid of that terrible THC and keep that wonderful Beer and Tobacco????

      Will the federal government come to the aid of Beer and Tobacco if someone walked into a store and said they were pulling the product because of health risks?

    8. James Strong says:

      Why not get a recent veteran of one of our wars and ask him to do a commercial asking people to give him the right to smoke a dobbie after the stress of fightin for our rights. Life , Liberty , and The Pursuit of Happiness. If you can fight for someones Life and Liberty who are they to say what should be your Pursuit of Happiness you dont tell them how to enjoy their Life and Liberty.

    9. Yoni says:

      Drunk Drivers kill people.
      Stoned drivers miss their exits.

    10. Somedood says:

      And the Guy tripping on acid gets out of the car and licks the green sign like a lolipop.

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