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November 2011
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Cannabis legalization associated with reduced driving fatalities

Denver Post: Report shows fewer traffic fatalities after states pass medical-pot laws

The passage of state medical-marijuana laws is associated with a subsequent drop in the rate of traffic fatalities, according to a newly released study by two university professors.

The study — by University of Colorado Denver professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University professor D. Mark Anderson — found that the traffic-death rate drops by nearly 9 percent in states after they legalize marijuana for medical use. The researchers arrived at that figure, Rees said, after controlling for other variables such as changes in traffic laws, seat-belt usage and miles driven. The study stops short of saying the medical-marijuana laws cause the drop in traffic deaths.

“We were pretty surprised that they went down,” Rees said Tuesday.

I’m not. But then again, I’ve been spending years looking at cannabis and driving studies.

Now keep in mind that this study shows correlation, not causation, but it appears to be a very powerful correlation, in that it completely undermines the prohibitionist argument that legalization is certain to result in an Armageddon of fiery crashes on the highways.

I’m waiting for the inevitable complaint from the usual suspects about how both sides in the legalization debate are pushing statistics that don’t fully prove causation when we mention this study. But the clear difference is that this is an actual study that is specifically tracking data that is relevant to changes of use connected with legalization, whereas the drug czar either pulls stuff out of his ass, or lies about the import of completely irrelevant statistics.

Driving shouldn’t even be part of this legalization debate. There are so many other aspects of legalization that make the driving issue miniscule in comparison. But we have no choice, because every time we mention legalization, the prohibitionists are out there preaching vehicular doom and gloom.

So, why did the study find the roads safer after medical marijuana was passed? Are stoned drivers actually safer than straight drivers? Probably not. It’s the substitution factor.

Rees said the main reason for the drop appears to be that medical-marijuana laws mean young people spend less time drinking and more time smoking cannabis. Legalization of medical marijuana, the researchers report, is associated with a 12-percent drop in the alcohol-related fatal-crash rate and a 19-percent decrease in the fatality rate of people in their 20s, according to the study.

The study also found that medical- marijuana legalization is associated with a drop in beer sales.

“The result that comes through again and again and again is (that) young adults . . . drink less when marijuana is legalized and traffic fatalities go down,” Rees said.

Exactly. The truth is that the majority of drug users are not poly-drug users and changes in a drug’s status can result in switching. Despite the fact that alcohol and cannabis are very different in their effects on the body, they both fill a similar recreational niche, and there are many casual users who would prefer the many superior aspects of pot if it were legal.

Once that switch is made, the differences are astounding. I think back to my college years when the drunks came home and, after terrorizing some poor freshman, put their fist through a wall, while the stoners were affably listening to Pink Floyd and discussing philosophy. As George Carlin used to say, you don’t puke on your shoes. And you aren’t as likely to end up in fiery crashes.

Hey, I’m not against alcohol. I’m a big fan of Lagavulin 16 or a good Tanqueray and Tonic. And all drugs should be used in moderation.

But there’s no doubt that, when misused, alcohol is a phenomenally more dangerous drug than cannabis. And that’s especially true on the roads.

Alcohol releases inhibitions and causes people to act more recklessly even as their impairment increases, while making them feel invincible. Cannabis, on the other hand makes people almost paranoically aware of their impairment, resulting in increased caution, sometimes to extremes.

As I’ve been fond of joking:

The drunk driver speeds through the stop sign without seeing it.
The stoned driver stops and patiently waits for it to turn green.

Here is my own personal and completely unscientific view of the relative dangers of drivers (obviously, these are very broad generalizations, but I think they serve to make the point).

The most dangerous I’ve ever been behind the wheel of a car was from being tired. That doze off and sudden wakening while driving… I feel so much safer these days now that I’ve learned to pull over somewhere and take a quick nap whenever I feel that tired.

Do I want people to drive while stoned? No. Of course not. Nor do I want them to drive tired or distracted. And I really think that my 95-year-old Uncle should stop driving (I’d ride with a stoned driver instead of him any day.)

If legalization of marijuana means that some of those who currently misuse alcohol switch to pot, we will save lives. And that’s a fact.

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61 comments to Cannabis legalization associated with reduced driving fatalities

  • claygooding

    I am so waiting for Kerli to refute this,,no matter how he addresses it,,it makes all his rants on drugged driving look like the total lie he was pushing.

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  • Servetus

    Prohibitionists will never let truth subvert their drugged driving crusade. Too much groundwork has been laid by police state industrialists and careerists to abandon everything this late in the game. The UC Denver study, and others like it, will be brushed aside as prohibitionists strive to create a separate reality that justifies their own existence, just as they have always done.

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  • Stoned Driver

    I for one drive better when stoned. Sober I’m nervous and am unable to focus and am liable to get distracted. Stoned, I am relaxed and focused and don’t get distracted and have a superior awareness of everything that need to be paid attention to.

    Everyone else I’ve observed drives the same sober or stoned.

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  • Ben

    We need more actual studies on the effects of marijuana impairment on driving performance.

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  • Francis

    Yeah, but the really important question is what happened to window washer related fatalities after MMJ? Those are the numbers you legalizers don’t want want to talk about!

    But seriously, this is absolutely DEVASTATING to the drug warriors. Well, ok, it would be devastating to them if they hadn’t proven themselves impervious to evidence and logic. Fretting about “stoned drivers” is one of their most cherished anti-cannabis talking points. And now there’s evidence that legalization would actually REDUCE traffic fatalities (something I’ve always suspected)? I mean, how many talking points do they have left at this point?

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  • swordOfslimePierceMyshins

    Here is a graph which indicates the presence of certain amounts of cannabis in your body REDUCES accident risk:

    http://img269.imageshack.us/img269/2739/picture9iqg.png

    Reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17916224

    * Fact: When combined 2002 to 2005 data are compared with combined 2006 to 2009 data, the Nation as a whole experienced a statistically significant reduction in the rate of past year drugged driving (from 4.8 to 4.3 percent), as did seven States: Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Four of these seven States have legalized medicinal marijuana, Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan and California.
    http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/205/DruggedDriving.htm

    * Fact: California led the US to a nationwide, statistically significant reduction in the incidence of “drugged” driving during a time period when the number of patients claiming the protection of the California Compassionate Use Act and SB-420 increased by a factor of 10.
    http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2011/may/31/million_medical_marijuana_patien

    * Fact: The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Hartford Hospital in Connecticut and the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine document states that MARIJUANA DOES NOT CAUSE DANGEROUS DRIVING: http://peaceandloveism.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4692

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    • Francis

      Hmmm, maybe we need a new “per se” impaired driving law requiring drivers to have at least a certain MINIMUM cannabinoid level while operating a motor vehicle. I mean, if it saves even one life…

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      • Jillian

        “Think about the children” and legalize adult marijuana sales!

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      • Mungin'Idea

        Think of the children!

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      • airdrummer

        a friend who worked @ nhtsa told me their testing of passing skill, using gummint-grown pot (& requiring naive subjects to smoke an entire joint!-) was thwarted by the subjects’ lack of desire to pass: they were happy just to follow the car in front;-)

        seems to me aggressive driving would be reduced greatly if drivers were required to mellow out;-)

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  • Dew-Bee

    Our circle likes to practice the “20 Minute Rule”. For the first 20 minutes after ingesting you shouldn’t be driving (or anything else that requires various skills). We are experienced users who understand how we are effected. Much like the warning on many pharmas one should never drive until they know how they are personally effected.

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  • Francis

    It’s funny to watch the prohibs in the comments section suddently discover the maxim that “correlation does not equal causation.” And lest anyone accuse me of hypocrisy, I certainly don’t think this study “proves” that legalization of pot would reduce traffic fatalities, but it’s certainly some evidence to support that hypothesis. And it’s even stronger evidence that the prohibs’ warnings about legalization significantly INCREASING traffic fatalities are overblown. And it certainly tracks everything I’ve read about cannabis versus alcohol impairment, not to mention my own experiences with the same. It also tracks my experience as well as reports from many of my friends about how cannabis use tends to DISPLACE (rather than simply supplement) alcohol consumption.

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  • Francis

    How is it that “women drivers” didn’t make your graph? Did the top of the image get cut off? *ducks*

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    • Maria

      *Maria slaps Francis around a bit with a large trout.

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    • Duncan20903

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      Oh please. The line of “women drivers” dates back to the horse and buggy where the driver actually needed significant upper body strength to be able to drive safely, particularly when there was a glue factory nearby. Even the earliest cars benefited from drivers with more upper body strength.

      Let’s talk about people driving under the influence of cellular telephone technology, or why Maria has a trout handy to use to slap people.

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    • Francis

      I kid. I kid.
      “Male drivers have a 77 percent higher risk of dying a car accident than women, based on miles driven.”

      Proposed solution: ban male drivers! Of course, if we really wanted to apply drug warrior “logic,” we’d have to ban men entirely.

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      • Duncan20903

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        Be careful what you wish for Francis, you just might get it. With all the laboratory advancements in the field of reproductive sciences, as well as in labor saving devices, elimination of men is very doable. For the girls who require “substance” they’ve even got strap-ons. I knew a guy who was an FTM tranny. If he hadn’t told me his birth certificate said “female” I’d have never guessed. The guy was ripped too, you should wish for pecs and abs like he was sporting. I only mention that because with advancement of the hormone sciences they don’t even need us for the illusion of masculinity.

        Q. How do you make a hormone?

        A. An extra $100 bill should do the trick.

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  • Maria

    No one should drive high and being high is a very distinct category from having consumed.

    Personally I wouldn’t drive right after consuming just as I wouldn’t drive right after a glass of wine. Mostly it’s because I want to enjoy the rare moment of relaxation and good mood but it’s also to give my body and mind time to adjust to the substance. To see how i will react to it, today.

    After about 30 to 45 minutes I’ll judge if I can drive. I noticed that if I had consumed earlier I tend to drive much differently.

    See. I’m normally a crazy driver. Not exactly bad (that’s of course arguable) but I tend to consider certain rules (like speed limits) to be more akin to contextual suggestions (ie. Why exactly should I stop at this stop sign at 3am when I SEE that there is no one around for miles?) I also tend to be very quick and defensive due to how I learned. But I’m not reckless. After smoking? I simply relax.

    After 40 minutes of mellow, it’s not that my reflexes relax, it’s more like my perception of what’s going on along the road opens up. And suddenly I’m ok with what I see. I become patient and accepting of the road rather then trying to fight it or want to maul the little old lady going 15 below in the left lane with her blinker on for the past five miles. *cough*

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    • darkcycle

      Since I ride a motorcycle, would you mind very much telling me your work schedule, and which roads you are most likely to be driving on at any given time? Just FYI, when I hear stuff like that, it gives me little chills….

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      • Duncan20903

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        You’ll never get me on a motorcycle, at least not on a road with automobiles too. I’ve had too many close calls where I’ve almost hit the dad blasted things and would have had I not been paying attention. Which is exactly the point, other people just don’t pay attention so good.

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        • darkcycle

          I, as a motorcyclist, take full responsability for my own safety. I got my first motorcycle in 1969, believe it or not, I was still only nine years old. My first street bike came at 16 (1976). My Dad rode for thirty years w/o an accident and my best was the first twenty four street years, all accident free (although I did have one very bad encounter with a tree as a dirtbiker about 1974). I went through college commuting every day on a bike because there was no way I could have afforded parking as a student. When I finally did have an accident that tore up my left knee, it was one of those freak “There was nothing I could have done about it” accidents that involved a driver flying out into traffic blind from behind a stationary moving van, that effectively blocked any view of the driveway behind it. After he was waved right into my path by the driver of said moving van.A very considerate man who decided to let the other driver through, but without checking for traffic in the lane right beside his first.
          Traffic was heavy, and there were dozens of witnesses, some of whom though it would make my knee feel better by coming up to the ambulace and reminding me that there was nothing I could have done. Then telling me about thier uncle Frank, who also rode a motorcycle and was decapitated/paralysed/maimed/turned into a vegetable/abducted by aliens/ as a result.
          I been riding one of them things since the fourth grade. If I ever get too old, you should just kill me.
          Oh….and I hate to admit, most of that time was stoned too.

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        • Duncan20903

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          I forgot to mention my pathological fear of paralysis. I know the idea scares anyone with any sense but it’s pretty extreme in me. Knowing a fellow who lost his leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident didn’t help my perceptions of motorcycle safety either.

          Why the heck are motorcycle tires practically devoid of tread?

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        • darkcycle

          Easy answer, most bikes are ridden in nice weather, the majority of miles being fair weather, the tires are biased toward dry conditions. Also has to do with a motorcycle tire’s shape. if you look at it in cross section, the contact area is hemispherical, rather than flat like a cars, the “squeegy” effct pushes water away from the contact patch, rather than trapping it beneath. Making hydroplaning less of a problem. The groove only has to move a little water in comparison to a car’s. Still, the lack of tread is a compromise. Look at “wet” roadracing tires, commonly alot more tread than street tires.

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      • Maria

        Better yet, how about I take my bike out and I’ll meet you for a weekend ride? :D Seriously (deadly serious, I know) I’m well aware of cycles no matter how I’m driving. I love driving and the feel of my sadly shitty car but I know the roads are not my race course.

        To be honest. I’m not quite sure which part would give one chills. Is it ignoring speed limits/stop signs based on context? I think that all of us on here ignore or bypass specific laws in specific circumstances. *cough* Many of us ignore laws that we know are idiotic, blindly procedural, an attempt at bureaucratic fleecing, or infantile.

        Now I live in the southern states but I was lucky enough to learn how to drive defensively in a northern snow loving country. One that takes teaching humans how to operate careening hunks of metal quite seriously.

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    • Jillian

      The thing about cannabis is that it makes you *not* want to drive – this is the exact opposite to alcohol! And if we have to drive after smoking then we do so very carefully.

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    • Windy

      My hubby calls me a Mario Andretti wannabe, I love to drive and I very much like driving fast, but only on relatively empty roads. On the freeway or in town I never exceed the speed limit by more than 4 mph (do NOT want a ticket), but I do tend to take corners faster than most drivers, because I know my car and I know the roads and corners I take at speed, and I also don’t tarry about accelerating to the speed limit from a stop or slowdown.

      When I’ve partaken of the green, or have a passenger with whom I’m conversing, I have noticed that I am able to subconsciously maintain a steady speed (without using my cruise control), stay in the exact middle of my lane, be aware (without realizing I’m aware) of the what the vehicles around me are doing, and also maintain a constant distance between the car in front and my car, with no effort, better than when I am concentrating on my driving. Not sure why, but I’m not going to worry about why, just be thankful for it.

      Hubby also says I can drive ANYTHING, I once drove his tractor (of a tractor trailer rig) over a mountain pass (in the summer, wearing a bikini), at a time before females started driving big rigs, lots of people on the road would look shocked and I could see their lips saying, “That’s a chick driving that rig!”.

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      • Windy

        dc, hubby rides his Harley year round (except in snow or icy conditions).

        RE: “twitchy at the keyboard” might be due to Mercury Retrograde (what some of us call Merc-retch) some say astrology has no basis in reality, but Merc-retch periods do really seem to cause problems with mechanical things, electronics and communication (misunderstandings). For instance in this current one, my car went tits up (to the tune of $1200, would have been more expensive had I taken it to the dealership’s shop), as did my fridge ($300) and both of one son’s vehicles, and my other son has been having all sorts of problems with his computer and his X-Box losing their connection to the internet, while my Comcast phone service has been off and on for a few days.

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  • Dante

    So, today’s articles provide strong, factual evidence that:

    The damage to our eco-systems is caused by prohibition of drugs, not the drugs or drug users themselves.

    And

    Legalizing cannabis appears to cause less drunk driving accidents.

    Of course, our Government continues to support massive, wasteful programs which cause our forests to be destroyed, and drunk driving accidents. They violently oppose any attempt to lessen the harm they cause.

    For our “safety”, you understand.

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  • Dante

    Probably shouldn’t say this, but I’ve driven and ridden under all conditions.

    Alcohol is the worst. Sloppy and loose.

    Sober is second worst. Too uptight & aggressive.

    High is the best. Patient and considerate of others.

    Full Disclosure: 35 years with various forms of a driver’s license, zero accidents. Somebody hit my parked car once, I guess that was my fault for parking there.

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    • Jillian

      No, it was your fault because you smoke marijuana! lol

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    • Duncan20903

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      I went out driving drunk either the 2nd or 3rd time I got drunk. I was 17. I got as far as the first stop sign down the street from my home, perhaps as much as a 1/2 mile distant. I saw the stop sign, engaged the brake pedal and succeeded in stopping the car, but fully in the middle of the intersection. The rear bumper was at least 10 feet past the stop sign. I wish I could say I had the sense to say I parked the car and stumbled home, but at least I can say I had the sense to turn around and return home directly, and that the next morning I decided that drunken driving wasn’t such a bright idea.

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    • darkcycle

      I will advise that driving on acid is a bad idea. I speak from experience. Just FYI.

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  • Francis

    One more quick thought. I think the reason it’s so hard for many people to wrap their head around the idea that cannabis + driving is not THAT dangerous is that their whole view of drugs is skewed by alcohol. Drinking and driving is very dangerous. And (to some) alcohol isn’t even a true “drug.” It’s legal and socially acceptable. More importantly, THEY use it. If alcohol consumption makes driving very dangerous, then the use of “drugs” MUST make driving SUPER-CRAZY-OH-MY-GOD-HIDE-THE-CHILDREN dangerous. I mean how could any recreational drug be less dangerous than alcohol, the one we decided to keep legal? That would suggest that our entire drug policy is irrational, and that can’t be right. Even scarier for some people, that would make THEM, in a sense, “worse” than a “drug user,” you know the people they get such a kick out of feeling superior to. That’s no fun for the old ego.

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    • Maria

      It’s amazing how many times the whole “but alcohol is not a drug!” conversation STILL happens. It’s just … mind boggling.

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    • Duncan20903

      .
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      “druggies” and the obese are the only socially acceptable scapegoats left. Well GBLT people in some circles.

      Every time I type or read GBLT I think “greasy bacon lettuce & tomato” sandwich. People really need to think through their acronyms before adoption.

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  • Jillian

    Imagine how much traffic fatalities would drop if cannabis was legalized for *all* adults and not just for sick people!

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  • vickyvampire

    I would love to see more and more continual studies like this and if they bode well for our side they will be ignored but at least the studies are there. Yeah copy them the government loves to ignore and erase history.

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  • It’s great that this substitution effect saves lives, and I don’t find greater availability of cannabis among teens as huge concern (especially if it reduces their often reckless alcohol use), but this should make us stop kidding ourselves and consider retiring the talking point that “regulation will better keep it out of the hands of kids”. If it did, we wouldn’t have this good news.

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    • I still think it’s realistic to believe that age carding will at least make it more possible to restrict access; perhaps even more importantly that it means that diversion to young people will happen from trusted sources (brother, friend) rather than criminals, particularly in a truly legalized system (not this crap that passes for regulation under patchwork medical marijuana laws).

      It’s also unclear how reducing driving fatalities relates to marijuana use by 12 or 14-year-olds.

      I really don’t see that this news says that we can’t reduce access to young kids through some kind of regulated legalization.

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    • Duncan20903

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      What in the world are you talking about Steve? First of all it’s demonstrable that enforcing age restrictions vis a vis drinking alcohol has had a substantial influence in reducing underage drinking. Those that claim that not to be true are disingenuously using the lifetime and past year numbers and disregarding total use. It’s absurd to think that there’s no significant difference between a teen that gets hold of drinking alcohol a couple of times a year vs every weekend, and when they do it’s a limited quantity rather than enough to drink to blackout for those so inclined.

      It’s also demonstrable that the regulated supply chain with age restrictions in Holland has resulted in lower use among the underaged.

      But I’m still unclear how the study above can even cause confirmation bias. The only youth in their 20s that are age restricted from drinking are age 20. While medicinal cannabis is not age restricted* the incidence of doctor’s recommendations for people less than age 18 qualify as rare. The last set of statistics released for the Montana registry of patients had 54 of 31,522 registered patients. No link, that’s been erased from the Montana DPHHS website but it’s on my hard drive. Colorado currently has 41 patients under age 18 out of 102,592.
      http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/medicalmarijuana/statistics.html
      Those percentages are hardly large enough to say that juveniles are using medicinal cannabis causing a reduction in drinking alcohol use.

      The final point I’m going to make in this screed is that not a single State with a medicinal cannabis patient protection law has suffered a statistically significant increase in the incidence of cannabis use in the under 18 category according to an article in the Winter 2011 edition of California Pediatrician. “Medical Marijuana: Update for the Pediatrician” by Seth Ammerman, MD (page 11)
      http://www.aap-ca.org/news/caPed/California%20Pediatrician%20-%20Winter%202011.pdf

      If you read the article please be aware that Michigan did not pass their law until Election Day 2008 and it was not implemented until April of 2009. Dr. Ammerman missed that salient fact when he noted that Michigan did suffer a statistically significant increase in youth use of cannabis from 2007′s totals to 2008. I did notify them of the mistake and the editor did send me acknowledgment.

      There’s simply no objective basis in fact to claim that the events in States with patient protection laws supports any conclusion other than the assertion that age limits in a regulated distribution chain will do anything other than reduce use of the underaged. I think it’s absurd to conclude that a distribution model that depends on people who are willing to commit multiple daily felonies in the normal course of business would find people who are adverse to selling to juveniles.

      (*Cash Hyde’s parents say thank you)

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  • Chris

    I have a car adapter for my vaporizer. It doesn’t get me very high, but it makes watching aggressive drivers go around me over the speed limit much easier.

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    • darkcycle

      …can’t say I would endorse that.

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      • Duncan20903

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        They come in handy if you’re into camping or other stuff that takes you out of reach of an electrical outlet. I’ve got a cigarette lighter style outlet in the hatch compartment of the SUV. I certainly can’t reach it from the driver’s seat.

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        • darkcycle

          That’s different. We had a small Motorhome (bought used cheap, used once and re-sold) with what could only be described as a Margarita station where there would usuallly be a kitchen counter. A built in blender, and trays for limes and salt and ice, but NO useable counter at all for cooking.
          That was a fun trip…used it to go to a dirtbike meet with my club out of state. It towed a traier with three race bikes and served as party central while the wife and I slept in a tent. Then we put it on craigs list and sold it for exactly what we paid for it. It was disgusting, quite frankly, but served it’s single purpose well.

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  • Windy

    Pete, “The most dangerous I’ve ever been behind the wheel of a car was from being tired. That doze off and sudden wakening while driving… I feel so much safer these days now that I’ve learned to pull over somewhere and take a quick nap whenever I feel that tired.”

    Did you know that chewing gum helps you avoid that doze off? Apparently it also helps one’s mind focus on the mental task at hand for about 20 minutes:
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/11/the-cognitive-benefits-of-chewing-gum/

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  • cabdriver

    I drove a cab for many years- I’d say at least 10 years between 1985 and 2005, with some breaks for school and other sorts of employment.

    In my considerable observation, at least 95% of the “drugged driving” problem is about alcohol.

    Yet these days, I don’t even support alcohol breathalyzer results as prima facie proof of impairment. Supplemental evidence, yes. But demonstrable impairment has to be there.

    This is the 21st century. Video technology is ubiquitous- and simultaneously more indicative of the signs of impairment, more inexpensive, and less intrusive than chemical tests.

    We’ve all seen some of those episodes of “Cops” with DUI stops, right? The drivers being stopped really are that bad. They aren’t acting.

    If it isn’t possible to tell if someone is impaired from the video record of their driving while being followed, and from their responses and test reactions after being stopped, they aren’t impaired. They may still be liable for a speeding ticket, a failure to yield ticket, or even a reckless driving ticket. But they aren’t DUI unless their behavior fulfills those conditions.

    …hmm, reflecting…

    Okay, there’s only one problem with my policy presciption: it may not work well enough as a deterrent for drunk drivers.

    Drunks simply lack insight into their own behavior. They’re incomparably worse than people under the influence of any other drug that I’ve been around.

    The basic fallacy at the heart of the “drugged driving” model is that it uses the behavior of drunks as the sine qua non of altered states.

    In my extensive observation, it’s possible to smoke marijuana all day long and never get to the level of central nervous system impairment produced by two martinis. Furthermore, the small percentage of people who do feel impaired by smoking pot retain enough insight to avoid driving.

    Not only that, but experienced police know this- or at least the older ones in California know this, the ones who weren’t conditioned from birth with truckloads of propaganda.

    Drunks, by contrast, are impossible to reason with. After a given BAC level- around .12%-.15%- forget it.

    The police know that, too. All too well. Even better than I do. And I’ve seen repeated instances of people getting physical over having their car keys taken away be their clearer-minded companions. To say nothing of all the other shenanigans I’ve witnessed associated with Alcohol, the Miracle Drug…but I don’t want to scold. After all, I do still enjoy an occasional drink myself, as long as there’s no need for me to get behind the wheel.

    Realize that as someone who finds the ability to qualify for a cab permit and job to be not only a matter of personal pride but an issue associated with making a living, my personal policy is no driving with any amount of alcohol on my breath. At minimum, I always have least one good meal in me and two hours after my last alcoholic beverage.

    I have a spotless driving record- my last traffic offense was something like 16 years ago (ticketed for a U-turn in an empty 4-way stop intersection, which I paid, only to hear later that it’s legal to do that in California. Can’t say for sure, haven’t checked…just fwiw…)

    But I can’t afford any problems. And I’ve heard several horror stories from people who got tagged with DUI for 2 drinks in 2 hours, who told me they were taken in for a .08% BAC breathalyzer even after the passed all the tests- including one nice middle class woman in her 30s, who got busted in her own driveway. I found those stories to be detailed and plausible- mostly from hearing the outrage attendant to people who had plainly never been in trouble with the law before.

    So on the alcohol Breathalyzer issue, I have to admit that I’m ambivalent.

    I know for a fact that the .08% DUI law in California acts as a preventive deterrent for at least some people, to keep them from the temptation of driving under the influence even if they “think they’re fine”.

    On the other hand, from the stories I’ve heard, if you’re stopped with any odor of alcohol on your breath, you’re almost certainly going to be put through the wringer, and your chances of going to jail on the spot are probably around 50/50.

    And never- I mean NEVER- admit to having so much as one sip of beer or wine to a policeman. Say something about the dressing you put on your salad, or that you drank some orange juice or fruit juice (which is known to ferment in the refrigerator). Admitting to having had any alcohol at all to a cop in the course of a traffic stop practically puts one of your feet in a jail cell.

    So it’s a balance between those two factors- alcohol is such a huge problem on the highway that maybe the occasional injustice of people who aren’t impaired getting DUI arrests and convictions is worth the deterrent effect.

    But that simply isn’t the case with any other drug- especially pot. Even daily users of opiates seem to manage better than drunks from the studies I’ve read, which admittedly surprised me.

    But driving under the influence of pot is simply not a problem worth worrying about. I’ve been to dozens of stoned out rock concerts and spent many hours in the parking lots, and I’ve seen a total of one fender bender.

    By the thousands, before and after the shows, the stoned hordes navigate through pedestrians, loose dogs, cars backing out and pulling in at odd angles, often under the watchful eye of the police…and then everyone gets on the freeway and goes home. And time after time after time, it’s the normative case that when everyone picks up the paper the next day, nothing happened.

    No multi-car pileups. No single-car crashes from people putting it in a ditch. No chaos on the highway.

    I know for a fact that there have been accidents and even fatalities, on rare occasions. But if driving high on pot were a newsworthy problem, it would have shown up as one by now, after all these decades.

    I know a criminal defense attorney, and I’ve asked him if he’s ever handled a “driving high” case. He’s had one, in all of his years doing that work- a carload of people who were smoking a joint, stopped after making an illegal U-turn. Morons. Deserved what they got, in my opinion.

    But the problem is that we live in a social climate where if these problems don’t exist, they’re invented. Often driven by technology, in defiance of the empirical record. So when new tests get invented to measure the purity of someone’s body fluids- like sweat analysis or saliva analysis- suddenly the Pothead Driving Menace gets conjured up out of nothing. Because now, after all of these decades, they have the technology.

    As more and more people have gotten to remarking lately, police priorities like these are a telling sign of a society on the ropes- corrupt, in denial, and thrashing around in search of scapegoats to blame for it’s own failures.

    And how that’s going to play out, I have no way of knowing for sure.

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    • Duncan20903

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      Even though probably no one will read this:

      A number of years ago there was a 1 1/2 year (+or-) period in my life in which I got drunk regularly. I’ve got two observations to share.

      1) I noticed that I could suddenly fall asleep (pass out if you must) with little to no regard to set and setting. I often wonder if most horrific drunken driving accidents are the result of that.

      2) I could not compensate for the degradation of my motor skills. Believe me, I tried, and I had experience doing that successfully with cannabis, cocaine, and LSD. Shit, I was so confident in my compensation efforts I defended myself pro se against a charge of “assuming a name other than my own.” While it sounds horrendously irresponsible and stupid, I thought being arrested for identifying myself to a cop as “Mickey Mouse” demanded an LSD influenced defense. To this day I still believe in that specific case that it was appropriate. I got PBJ. The cop get a very stern lecture for wasting the Court’s time. Back to the instant subject, my conclusion is that drinking alcohol has a unique property that “shuts off the switch” to whatever it is that keeps us from tripping over our shoes. Other substance change perception, but don’t have that specific effect so we have the ability to compensate.

      Were there black boxes installed in our vehicles recording our conversations, and presuming that you can actually find any Cannabinoidians that have caused fatal accidents, you’d never hear “hey, hold my bong for a minute and let me show you how to drive for real!” But you would hear that phrase from the drunks, but substituting “beer” for “bong” of course.

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      • darkcycle

        I read all the posts. I even visit dead threads.

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      • Duncan20903

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        OK, I’ll amend “Even though probably no one will read this:”
        to “Even though probably no one with a life will read this:” :)

        Gosh, no remarks on the privilidge and honor of actually knowing a guy who was arrested on a Mickey Mouse charge?

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      • cabdriver

        “my conclusion is that drinking alcohol has a unique property that “shuts off the switch” to whatever it is that keeps us from tripping over our shoes.”

        Well, yeah. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant (“CNS depressant”, for short.) The other stuff you mentioned doesn’t do that.

        The “downer” category of drugs are also CNS depressants- tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, opiate painkillers, sedatives. And the potency of all CNS depressant drugs escalates when mixed with alcohol- by a factor of about 10, as a rule of thumb.

        One 5mg Valium plus one beer = 50 mg Valium.

        This also accounts for many of the overdose fatalities of opiate drugs like Oxycontin- they’re carelessly mixed with alcohol.

        My impression is that the “antidrug” programs in the schools have been so busy conjuring up hazards to associate with Marihuana for the past 30 years that they’ve skipped over that part of the syllabus of Drug Education.

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  • Windy

    “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficial … the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.” — Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, 1928

    Since when is “public safety” the root password to the Constitution? — C. D. Tavares

    Virtually all reasonable laws are obeyed, not because they are the law, but because reasonable people would do that anyway. If you obey a law simply because it is the law, that’s a pretty likely sign that it shouldn’t be a law. — ?

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    • Duncan20903

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      So should we re-legalize dueling? I’d sure appreciate having the chance to shoot certain people without consequence. Perhaps insisting on indoor dueling ranges?

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