There is no denying that driving drunk is never a smart move. Jumping behind the wheel of an automobile after one too many cocktails has proven to have devastating repercussions for anyone involved, and most jurisdictions in the United States have strict laws in place to deter that kind of behavior.
This is, perhaps, the reason why stoned driving has become the big, bad boogeyman of the legal cannabis culture. Essentially, a bunch of fuddy-duddy politicians and cops, not to mention those mad mothers who may or may not have experience with pot, are worried that an increase in high drivers on the American roadways means an uptick in accidents. They fear that a legion of stoned motorists will usher in an era of more death, destruction and every other dirty word starting with the letter ‘D’ — these societal do-gooders will use them all to convince the population that we, and especially our young children, are at high risk for getting snuffed out as a result of people consuming cannabis and then driving.
But, the thing is, there is some level of contention on this subject. Marijuana is just not the same as alcohol. So, while the politicians and law enforcement are doing what they can to curtail high driving, a sizable population of marijuana users are left wondering: What’s all the fuss about?
Although a recent poll from PSB Research, Civilized, Burson Cohn & Wolfe and BuzzFeed News finds that most Americans believe it is dangerous to drive under the influence of cannabis, the majority of actual cannabis users seem to be almost evenly split on this argument. The survey found that 48% of those smoking weed in the United States think that driving high is safe –anywhere between “very safe” to “somewhat safe,” in fact. But another 46% of the nation’s current users contested this idea, and professed their belief that making the decision to drive high is never a wise one. 6% said they weren’t sure whether it was dangerous or not.
It is not surprising, however, that a little more than three-quarters of the people polled who do not use marijuana thinks driving high is a bad idea. Only 14% of non-users said that they presumed stoned driving was harmless. Another 11% of this group pleaded ignorance on the matter – these people reported having no clue whether driving high was safer than or just as dangerous as driving drunk.
And almost none of the non-users have any interest in riding with someone who is stoned. The study found that nearly 75% of them were uncomfortable with the idea of being in the shotgun seat and chauffeured around by someone who had just smoked pot. But most cannabis users – 56% – said they didn’t have any problem at all with being carted around by a high driver.
There is a lot of controversy on the subject of stoned driving. The opposing forces, those who live to contest any and all matters related to marijuana legalization, have fought to sell the public on the idea that legal cannabis means more stoned drivers means more dangerous roads. But this argument often receives pushback from the cannabis advocacy community, which disputes this ethos and complains that the rules that many states have imposed to combat high driving are unjust.
And they might be.
Shut Up and Drive
Since there is no effective instrument yet available for law enforcement to property gauge THC-impairment out in the field, advocates argue that the bulk of stoned driving arrests are largely discriminatory. Still, while making arrests for stoned driving is easy, the same can’t be said for the prosecution. In many instances, these cases wind up getting dismissed by the courts because, unlike drunk driving, weed-induced impairment cannot be proven.
The only real reason for the U.S. to become so militant against high drivers is if, like those who drive drunk, these people start causing deadly accidents. The problem is, nobody seems to agree if marijuana legalization has caused a spike in traffic-related accidents and fatalities or if other factors are at play. Some research has shown that the roadways are not any more dangerous post-legalization than they were in times of prohibition. Other reports tell a different story altogether.
It is also important to consider that all of the researchers out there releasing conflicting studies on the subject of stoned driving are approaching their work using different benchmarks when it comes to measuring results.
At the end of the day, it’s clear that more research is needed on this subject. It would also be pretty helpful if one of the tech companies that touted the creation of an effective marijuana breathalyzer would finally come through and take the mystery out of gauging THC impairment.
Until that happens, we imagine that more conflicting reports on this matter are destined to arise in the years to come. We are also not so naive as to think that the ultimate outcome is going to provide marijuana users with any more flexibility for driving high than society does for those who get behind the wheel after using alcohol.
But no progress on the subject is possible until we can scientifically put the finger on marijuana, not as a potential contributing factor, but as a culprit in roadway mayhem.
TELL US, do you think driving high is dangerous?