Not going to pot yet
There is something a bit unsettling among Southerners to states approving the legal sale of small amounts of marijuana. Pot will soon be legal under state laws in Washington and Colorado. Other states also have approved the sale of marijuana for personal use or medical purposes.
Still, while the debate over the legalization of pot goes on, the statistics and research tell a story that should give pause to states considering a similar move. We know alcohol can impair drivers. So can marijuana. Pot can cause dizziness and slowed reaction time, and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve while they’re high, research and medical science show.
Residents in Colorado ought to be worried. The new law doesn’t make any changes to the state’s DUI laws. “We’re going to have more impaired drivers,” John Jackson, police chief in the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village, told The Associated Press.
Washington’s law does set a new blood-test limit for marijuana, but it has not stood a legal test yet. “We’ve had decades of studies and experience with alcohol,” Washington State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon told the AP. “Marijuana is new, so it’s going to take some time to figure out how the courts and prosecutors are going to handle it. But the key is impairment: We will arrest drivers who drive impaired, whether it be drugs or alcohol.”
Statistics gathered for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that in 2009, a third of fatally injured drivers with known drug test results were positive for drugs other than alcohol. Among randomly stopped weekend nighttime drivers in 2007, more than 16 percent were positive for drugs.
Everybody agrees people who smoke pot shouldn’t drive, just as those who drink shouldn’t drive. But they do it anyway. Throw the marijuana users and the alcohol users on the road together in those states, and you have the makings of a mess on the highways.
Fortunately, not many states are ready to approve the legalization of marijuana. It’s a huge risk to the safety of motorists and passengers just to make some extra tax money. It is good that we have moved beyond tossing people in jail for possessing a seed, as was done in some areas in the 1960s and 1970s.
But to have it sold like breath mints and sodas pop? That’s too much to inhale.