Stoner danger on the roads?

In the 50s and 60s marijuana was the “devil’s lettuce” that sent users into psychotic “reefer madness”. To advocates of legalisation, marijuana is a benevolent wonder-drug that apparently cures everything. Neither is true, of course. But there are valid arguments for and against legalising marijuana. These days, though, it’s the stoners who seem to be the most close-minded, absolutely refusing to concede that there might be any downside to their precious weed.

The most powerful argument for legalisation is the libertarian argument that it’s every adult’s right to decide what to do with their body. The problem is that marijuana use creates an inherent risk for people other than the individual user. Most obviously, there’s the risk of users who drive under the influence.

Sure, driving under the influence of alcohol is a risk to others, but we have laws in place and reliable testing to deal with that. The same cannot be said for marijuana – and there is every indication that the risk to other road users is very real. quote.

There has been an increase by up to 6 percent in the number of highway crashes in four of the states where the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized, according to a pair of new studies.

The new reports do not prove there’s a direct risk caused by the use of marijuana among motorists, but they raise caution flags, especially since there is no easy way to test drivers to be sure if they are, in fact, under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, said David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute.

“It’s certainly early in the game,” Harkey told NBC News. But, he warned, “We’re seeing a trend in the wrong direction.” end quote.

The data collected previously have been inconsistent. But, in the past two years, a troubling trend has emerged: an added risk of between 5.2 and 6 percent. The data for each state have been compared to its neighbours, to control for confounding factors like weather or economy.

What’s even more alarming though, is a behavioural peculiarity of marijuana users on the road. quote.

While those under the influence of alcohol tend to either be driving alone or with other adults, about 14 percent of those confirmed to be using pot had a child in their vehicle. That reflects the fact, he added, that marijuana use isn’t confined to evenings and other times when adults are more likely to drink — and abuse — alcohol. end quote.

But the biggest problem remains finding a reliable roadside test for driver impairment under the influence of marijuana. quote.

Police have a particularly difficult challenge because of the way marijuana works in the body. Blood alcohol levels provide a direct correlation showing how much a motorist has had to drink, with those levels dropping rapidly as someone sobers up. But while THC levels spike after smoking weed or eating a consumable, the psychoactive ingredient remains in the body for weeks, long after it has stopped having any impact.end quote.


While my personal inclination is towards legalisation, this lack of reliable testing seems to me to be an insurmountable hurdle. Our society has come a long way to eradicating drinking and driving. The last thing we need is a bunch of stoners being let loose on the roads.