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October 2003
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Why must I pay to watch lies?

I’m just trying to watch a little TV. A ball game, a movie… And recently it seems that every night I end up seeing the same commercial at least once. It’s propaganda. Worse, it’s a lie. And I helped pay for it.
Tax dollars fund the Drug Czar’s Media Campaign, which includes a number of offensive ads, including this one:
A picture named roadside.jpg

A boy walks across the street. He stoops down to add a snapshot to a collection of flowers, photos, and candles by the roadside.
Superimposed Text: His kid brother was killed… by a driver under the influence… of marijuana… He was the driver.

Voice Over: In a roadside study, one in three reckless drivers who were tested for drugs, tested positive for marijuana. It’s more harmful than we all thought.

If you haven’t seen this commercial (which would probably only be because you’ve been serving in Iraq, or have been living without a TV), you can watch it at Media Campaign (select “Super Bowl Memorial”).
I know I’ve talked about this particular issue several times, but not nearly as much as the Drug Czar has lied about it.
If you do a little research through the Drug Czar’s sites, you will discover that their entire support for this claim is based on the following study:

Brookoff, D.; Cook, C.S.; Williams, C.; and Mann, CS. Testing reckless drivers for cocaine and marijuana. New England Journal of Medicine 331:518-522, 1994.

This “study” basically followed a number of traffic stops in an area one summer. All those who appeared to be drunk were eliminated from the study (and no record was kept of how many were first screened out). Then the rest were tested for marijuana and cocaine (nothing else) with no testing for other drugs, fatigue, etc. There are so many problems here… But why listen to me?
According to the editors of the National Drug Strategy Network:

[This study has many fundamental methodological flaws. First, the basic data collection technique is flawed by eliminating an unknown number of suspected alcohol intoxicated subjects. Second, 28% of the 175 in the non-alcohol group were tested for alcohol and were positive for recent alcohol use at levels up to 0.21 mg/d l, a level far above legal intoxication. The authors point out that other studies have shown that up to one-third of subjects with blood alcohol levels in the intoxicated range have no appreciable odor of alcohol. Thus some of the intoxicated “drug” cases were certainly intoxicated by alcohol and probably not by use of cocaine or marijuana. The authors fail to correlate any of the alcohol intoxication data they had with either the drug use data or the degree of intoxication. Third, the authors fail to quantify or define “under the influence” and imply that it means testing positive for the drug metabolite in urine at any level of concentration. This indicates nothing about the level of impairment the person is experiencing. Nor does it tell us what drug is responsible for the impairment. In fact, the study states that some of those that were at first classified as not under the influence of alcohol but intoxicated later were found to have blood alcohol levels establishing legal intoxication and that some who tested positive for marijuana did not appear intoxicated. Fourth, the drivers could also have been under the influence of any number of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, for which the researchers did not test. While they tested positive for marijuana or cocaine or both, many other drugs (legal or illegal) could have been responsible for their impairment. This study falls prey to the fallacy that correlation equals causation. Not knowing the total number stopped for reckless driving makes it impossible to support the authors’ conclusion that the use of marijuana and cocaine is a major cause of reckless driving. — Editors]

On the other hand, as I have detailed in an earlier post, a number of serious scientific studies have detailed the minimal dangers from marijuana and driving.
Again, a reminder… I do not recommend driving while on marijuana (or on a cell phone). However, it pisses me off to continually hear the Drug Czar’s lies at my expense.

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