DRINKING AND DRIVING is one of the most significant factors in causing accidents on the road and there have been countless campaigns aimed at reducing the likelihood of any of us climbing behind the wheel after sipping on one-too-many Mojitos (or whatever your preference may be). Many of you may have been affected by the actions of a driver who has driven while inebriated, and the difficulty comes with the delayed effects of alcohol and our general inability to recognize the extent to which alcohol can reduce our driving abilities. But what about smoking and driving?
Some people we spoke to suggested that “you don’t get so zoned out when you smoke, if anything you become more focused and aware of the environment that you are in. Most people I know drive slower, safer and with more consideration for other road users when they have smoked a joint or two than those who drink a couple of beers. I guess it’s about patience versus aggression.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing driving whilst intoxicated, but I think many people would agree that it is marginally ‘better’ to drive stoned than to drive drunk.
Colorado is a perfect place to examine the impact of driving under the influence of cannabis, thanks to its data-set’s representation of a population which is more inclined to smoke. Most of the anti-legalization cronies predicted that there would be a marked increase in the number of serious collisions and fatalities on Colorado’s road after they ushered in a new era of weed-induced law breaking and possible general automotive madness. Whilst it is true that there has been a relatively high occurrence of blood-THC levels in those involved in traffic incidents, it has to be said that the levels which are legally representative of being ‘under the influence’ are so miniscule that they would usually be at the level of someone who smoked half a joint two days before their blood tested. As we all know, data can be manipulated to fi t the desires of those who analyze it and most of the laymen are only given the keynotes instead of a genuine explanation of what the results really show. But that’s why we like to blow holes in the smokescreen, right?
The key term to look out for in any official reports is ‘marijuana-related’. If an incident is labeled as being ‘marijuana-related’, it indicates that 5 nano-grams of THC is present in an individual’s system. Many people who are tested at the side of the road (during ‘routine’ traffic stops or following specific incidents) are checked for marijuana metabolites, which are residual trace elements that remain in the body after it has processed smoke, vapor or edibles which have been consumed, but this is not an accurate judge of when the marijuana was consumed and does not accurately portray a state of inebriation. People have varied rates of metabolism and it is impossible to differentiate between trace levels of marijuana which show that someone smoke heavily a week before and someone who has just left a party where they may have been subjected to passive smoking. The fact of the matter is that a night out on the town, drinking Jagerbombs and cocktails until 2 in the morning, can leave you feeling hung-over and groggy until you have a shower and a fried breakfast, yet many people can convince themselves that their comatose sleep is enough to defeat the effects of copious shots. Many fatal collisions are caused by people driving home after staying over at a friend’s house or heading out to fetch more coffee for a hung-over Sunday morning. Weed does not have that same impact. Unless you wake-nbake, the restful sleep which follows a late evening vape or two all-but dissolves any of the heady effects of THC and CBD, thereby reducing their knock-on effects the following day. It’s by no means ideal, but labeling night-time medicinal smokers as liabilities in the same manner as hangover drivers is a ludicrous position to take.
Of course the media are all over this like a celebrity sex tape. It doesn’t take much for the truth to get all bent out of shape and too many people accept what the news reports without looking into specific incidents any further than the lips on the screen. When a police report is brought to light that suggests a driver caused a crash and was found to have traces of cannabis in their system, they may ‘forget’ to expand on any other contributing factors (like the weather, vehicular fault or the excessive amount of alcohol in their system (true story)). The spreading culture of legalization in America will be met with mistrust and falsified reports for a few years yet, so we shouldn’t be surprised in the slightest when this happens, but the negative impact of any type of bad press does little to further the cause of those interested in the ‘greater good’ of legal cannabis. It’s funny how they keep forgetting that alcohol is legal and is responsible for so many ills that I can’t even count them on my Grapefruit Krush’s trichome fingers – let alone my own.
By taking the time to analyze the official data from the Colorado Dept. of Transportation, in the months leading up to and following their change in policy, what quickly becomes apparent is the reduction in traffic fatalities over the past year in comparison to the previous years. 2014 saw one of the lowest levels of traffic fatalities since 2002 and this is mirrored in other state which have legalized cannabis in the past year. Sources indicate that there is a higher number of individuals testing positive for marijuana in their system, but this is not representative of those who are deemed to be ‘unfit’ to drive through intoxication or inebriation and instead just shows that more people are smoking pot (or more people are being tested for it), which is really what you would expect when the criminal tag is removed from something previously considered to be an illicit substance. Here at Weed World we want you all to be safe, and we don’t condone driving whilst high, but we thought you should know that we are being labeled in a manner which is unfair and inaccurate.
There’s hardly likely to be less people smoking frequently in Colorado these days, is there?
Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 117