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September 2003
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*The Drug Czar is at…

The Drug Czar is at it again!
Millions have driven while on drugs – today’s AP story which will soon be appearing in a newspaper near you.

An estimated 11 million Americans, including nearly one in five 21-year-olds, have driven while under the influence of illegal drugs, the government says…
John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the statistics show a failure to convince drivers that drugs impair driving as much as alcohol does. His office is kicking off an ad campaign to warn teens about driving while smoking marijuana.
“Marijuana is not the soft drug. Marijuana is not the casual rite of passage,” Walters said at a news conference. “We have been sending the wrong message.”

Notice how he says that the “statistics show a failure to convince drivers that drugs impair driving as much as alcohol does”. Perhaps that’s because, in the case of marijuana, it just isn’t true!
A picture named car.gif
Now, I don’t recommend driving with any kind of impairment, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, fatigue, or using a cell phone. But Walters is distorting the facts once again.
bullet imageAccording to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study titled “Marijuana and Actual Driving Performance” (published November, 1993): “THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small.” and “Evidence from the present and previous studies strongly suggests that alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC encourages greater caution.”
bullet imageAccording to a 1994 Dutch study on “Marijuana Use And Driving” in real world conditions: “THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appeared relatively small in the tests employed in this program.”
bullet imageA May 1998 Australian review of 2,500 injured drivers reported that cannabis had “no significant effect” on driving culpability.”
bullet imageA study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory in 2000 was reported in the London Times article Cannabis May Make You a Safer Driver.

…researchers found that the mellowing effects of cannabis made drivers more cautious and so less likely to drive dangerously. Although the cannabis affected reaction time in regular users, its effects appear to be substantially less dangerous than fatigue or drinking.”

The study’s author Rob Tunbridge said:

“If you were to ask me to rank them in order of priority, fatigue is the worst killer, followed by alcohol, and drugs follow way behind in third.”

bullet imageThe TRL study was repeated a year later and reported in New Scientist: Alcohol impairs driving more than marijuana, which confirmed that marijuana users, though mildly impaired in certain skills, adjusted by driving more carefully and alertly. The study also indicated that alcohol users gained some of that caution if they smoked marijuana.
bullet imageAccording to the Canadian Senate’s exhaustive 2002 report: “Cannabis: Our Position for a Canadian Public Policy,” “Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving.”
A picture named czar.jpgBut Walters doesn’t care about the facts. He is pursuing his own agenda.
The Marijuana Policy Project is quite aware that Walters has declared his own war specifically on marijuana – ONDCP Ads Increase Teen Drug Use: Focus on Marijuana Ignores Problem of More Dangerous Drugs

“The Office of National Drug Control Policy is trying to change the topic with the new teen driving safety campaign,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “By no means do we support anyone, particularly teens, driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, but ONDCP’s continued focus on marijuana above all other drugs has made the problem worse. By concentrating on anti-marijuana scare tactics that are proven not to work and may even increase teen marijuana use, ONDCP is ignoring the increasing use of truly dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin.”

So when you see Walters spouting this in your local paper, you know what to do. Write a letter to the editor and give them the truth. Go to MAP for help in doing it.

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