Report: States with weak marijuana laws see more impaired driving

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By CASEY HARPER | THE CENTER SQUARE

A new report found that states with less restrictive marijuana policies have higher incidents of residents driving while high.

A new report shows that states that have legalized or weakened restrictions around high-THC marijuana, either for medical or recreational use, saw 32% more marijuana-impaired driving than states that have not adopted the same policies.

According to the Drug Free America Foundation study, the 18 states with less restrictive marijuana policies have seen far more cases of impaired driving of this kind, something that medical research shows can be very dangerous.

“In 2017, eight states had adopted full recreational marijuana programs (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) and ten states had enacted higher-THC medicinal programs (Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont),” the report said. “Incidentally, seven of these states have since adopted full recreational programs. Adding to the concern is the fact that fatalities in the U.S. from marijuana-impaired drivers have risen dramatically between 2000.”

The report also points out that the potency of marijuana has skyrocketed in recent decades. This can lead to users taking in far more THC than they realize before getting behind the wheel.

“With these new products out there…especially with edibles and things, you might use one edible and not feel anything for the first 15 or 20 minutes, so next thing you know, you’ve eaten seven gummy bears or five cookies, and you don’t know when it’s going to hit you or how bad it’s going to hit you,” Amy Ronshausen, who leads DFAF, told The Center Square.

“And if that’s happening when you are behind the wheel of a car, that’s not a good thing,” she added.

Research from AAA and others has found that marijuana use significantly impairs drivers. On top of that, mixing alcohol and marijuana can create greater effects than either substance taken on its own.

“Research shows that marijuana can impair drivers in a variety of ways,” said AAA, which has conducted its own research backing this idea. “It can affect psychomotor functions such as attention, reaction time and coordination, but generally it appears to affect automated or routine driving more than tasks requiring conscious effort. Further, numerous laboratory-based studies have demonstrated that marijuana use impairs many aspects of cognitive and physical function that are necessary for safe driving.

“Marijuana can decrease car handling, can impair performance and attention while increasing reaction times, following distance and lane deviation,” AAA added.

Ronshausen said while most Americans are aware of the impact that alcohol can have on their driving, there is less awareness about the impact of marijuana.

“The general public, they see marijuana as somehow safer,” Ronshausen said. “We did a really good job at the ‘Don’t drink and drive’ message, but apparently we have not done as well of a job at the impaired driving message overall.

“You have a lot of people who haven’t really used marijuana since they were in college, and today’s marijuana is such a different product,” she added. “It’s such a higher potency. Like all drugs today, they are a higher potency and more pure…”

Ronshausen added people are often taking THC products that are far more potent than they realize.

“And there’s such a wide variety of products out there that do run the spectrum of potency, and with alcohol that’s more understandable,” she said. “You know that there’s going to be a difference between a glass of wine and Everclear, but when you are looking at these products, most people probably don’t look to see or even know, depending on how they are getting their product, what the potency is.”

Use among youth is also an issue.

“It is critical that these results impact future policy debates, especially since enforcement

data shows that between 11 to 23 percent of recreational marijuana sold ends up in the hands of minors,” the DFAF report said. “On top of that, consumption lounges, now legal in seven states (Nevada, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, Colorado, and California), and drive-up pot shops will keep spurring increased occurrences of marijuana intoxication and driving.”

48 COMMENTS

  1. Just sue the marijuana distributors. No different than the leftists who sue gun manufacturers. Get these foggy-brained idiots off of our hiways.

    • That’s actually happening. An Anchorage wife won $$BIG against a marijuana retailer when the drugged-up wackos fell asleep in their car, crossed the centerline, and killed her husband and crippled her. The killers owned marijuana outlets. There will be more lawsuits! And deaths.

    • That was my reaction too… Casual observation says road rage and rude driving incidences are up at least 300% since they legalized. Locals in Fairbanks want to blame it on the new military folks, but I’m certain it’s the weed – all the uniformed folks I meet are decent, respectful and polite – and sober.
      Alaska, we’re better than that.

  2. Has anyone been to Oregone lately?
    The democrats decriminalized Heroin and most other dangerous drugs (crack meth psilocybin)
    If you want a good look at the true effects of the decriminalization of drugs spend a day or two roaming around downtown Portland between the waterfront all the way up to 15th ave.
    My best description of it would be like peeking through the gates of H**l.
    WARNING, It may be hazardous to life and health with serious side effects which may include nightmares and loss of restful sleep and serious anxiety attacks which could result in suicide with prolonged stays in the downtown area.

    • I’ve had the fortune of extensive traveling outside the US. I’ve seen “the world” in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

      It ain’t pretty. At all.

      Two years ago I had to spend extensive time in both Portland and Seattle. In places it looked and smelled worse than many impoverished 3rd world villages I’ve been in.

    • Don’t forget fentanyl. You might want to consider removing magic mushrooms from your list, as properly done, they are only a one time use. OTOH, knowing this, Big Pharma sees a new money making opportunity as COVID vax tails off. They are working on an expensive replacement that barely works, meaning you will have to take continuously to get any effect. This is why the CDC (today a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Pharma) has started looking into Magic Mushrooms for inclusion as a Schedule A psychedelic. Cheers –

  3. The cause and effect of legalizing and increased consumption is taken for granted, but questionable as being accurate. The unlicensed suppliers continue to thrive now as they have long before legalization.
    Back in the 70s and 80s in Fairbanks drunk driving was endemic. It seems that the threat of drunk impaired drivers is less, but the threat of texting drivers now is as common as alcohol was then.
    The method of the AAA study would need to be evaluated as to how the data is extrapolated as testing for cannabis is not advanced and common as for alcohol.
    There is no defense or excuse for driving impaired under any substance. There are large numbers of people who benefit from cannabis as an alcohol and opiate replacement, who consume for pain and health conditions instead of pharmaceutical drugs with scores of nasty side effects. In the Native community, alcohol and opiates remain the number 1 scourge.

    • Friend, there may be a few who actually use it for medicinal purposes – like a dear neighbor who was giving CBD oil to her arthritic dog. But what I’m seeing on the road is a lot of stoners behind the wheel. You can argue the specificity of numbers if you like – I don’t have access to the AAA study or methodology or statistical sample size. But this much I can say – THEY’RE RIGHT. If you want to get high, STAY HOME. Stop endangering me and my family and friends. Your apologetic for marijuana use is tired horse hockey.
      And yeah, I was a teenager once upon a time… and I inhaled… More than 40 years no weed, no drugs, no alcohol – I don’t need that crap to make me feel good or relax or whatever. Yes, I remember what it was like… Aspirin or Ibuprofen work just fine for typical old guy pain… We have a mindset in this nation that says we have to numb every symptom that disturbs us in any way – this is a spiritual problem, and a lazy excuse for not getting off your butt and getting involved in something constructive.

      • In other words: “Everyone look at me! You should be more like me!”
        Funny how an aging population (Driving tests should be mandatory every 10 years) texting, road rage, plain old lack of common courtesy and every other dangerous driving activity is suddenly analogous to cannabis usage. Research and personal opinion can and has been used to justify every loss of basic freedom. Because prohibition worked so well we should do that again. See? Remember back in the 1930’s when the feds poisoned alcohol and killed thousands of US citizens? Let’s do that again too! Yay.

  4. It is a loser habit. And it stinks. Then add to the issue also, the elimination of drivers education in high school. We are now seeing generations of bad drivers as too many never really learn to drive well and then teach their kids their bad driving habits. Our driving licensure requirements are far too easy. Then throw in the recreational impairment. Good grief.

    • In my time, I’ve been down south long enough to have to get drivers licenses in a couple different states.

      Believe it or not, it was much harder to get an Alaskan license than the ones I got outside

    • Everything is worse. Weed makes you not care – that is part of the “comfortably numb”. Last night on my way home from work (about 12:30AM) there was an ambulance and two police cars in a Fred Meyer parking lot obviously administering Narcan and CPR to some doper lying on the ground. There was a vehicle next to this scene, but I can’t say if he was driving or just sleeping in it or who called for help. I don’t know if he lived. Point being, these incidences were much rarer in the past.

  5. It’s not just driving, unless you consider that the stoners are driving to and from work in this condition. It is not something easily determined like alcohol. And of course if you really want to stay stoned, get a job where you work from home. Workplace injuries have risen since the new law as well. It is one of the reasons workman’s comp insurance rates are so high.

    • ???? Do you have some statistics on workmen’s comp rates?, drug testing is the first test when a workplace injury occurs

      • And many jobs that involve driving make you pass a drug test before hire and randomly thereafter. The professional driver/heavy equipment operator knows better and abstains – they aren’t the problem. Some union CBAs prohibit drug testing, and not all businesses are unionized – it’s the laborer in a steel plant (for instance) handling dangerous sharp edges who got high the night before and just happened to get a little careless when he got tired then cut himself or dropped something heavy on his foot… So how much blame to you lay on the weed? We’re talking common sense here. Weed has lasting effects on mental abilities. School bus drivers tell me their testing can detect THC 40 days after use – and their bosses won’t let them near a bus until it shows clean.

        • Alaska does not have any steel plants, there are no documented increases in Alaska Workman’s comp rates from cannibus induced impairment. Just more MRAK BS that anonymous posters feel compelled to post on.

        • I’ve worked for a few companies that requires regular drug testing.

          Once at the testing place in Juneau I asked about the general science of it all.

          Among other things, THC lingers in the body for 30 days or longer. Depends upon personal metabolism.

          That’s why high risk trades and jobs which involve public safety are so picky about it.

    • Oh “Frank”…

      Which has what to do with what?

      The point of the article was the more places that allow legal weed see an increase in people driving while stoned.

      The “point” you seem to want to make is, rather pointless.

      Reading. It’s fundamental.

  6. Fact is, this is the direction the nation is going. The stigma associated with weed is pretty much gone, and dollars are there for the making.

    What we the people need to do in response is to push our legislature (state and national) to make sure there are appropriate punishments for reckless behavior.

    • Fact is MA, no one wants to prosecute anyone “for harmless non-violent drug offenses” and we can’t fill our jails with potheads who committed no other crime (did we ever?). SCOTUS would throw out any appropriate punishment as being “cruel and unusual”. The only effectual answer I can see apart from a major religious revival is the long term approach – take control of our schools and teach truthful drug education (and more than a few additional values) to turn the moral compass of the nation. This will take at least the 70+ years that we have fallen down this path to recover. Pothead nation is not capable of greatness nor even of preserving/protecting our freedom.

  7. If you want to lose all motivation in life, with the side benefits of stinking like a skunk, and paying through the nose for those ‘benefits’, then by all means, smoke pot.

    • They are your people Jefferson, poor, White and full of grievances for their poor life choices, at least in the Valley that’s who I see smoking it.

      • And we have yet simplistic and erroneous assumption on the part of RINO, who never met a truth that he would not wage war against.

        The entire radical leftist extremist social and political agenda, in fact, is a war against truth, and against reality. That is why each one of you is a bitter, angry, hyper-intolerant authoritarian — because your rigid ideologies and dogmas are ALL so completely at odds with reality.

  8. I was in Wasilla the other day, some Trailer Park resident was driving his 2000 Chevy smoking up the whole intersection by the Post Office, pathetic.

  9. I overheard an investigative reporter on NPR last week describing how the DEA may designate marijuana as a CIII controlled substance, which means it could be sold by prescription, and, also incidentally be more accessible for controlled drug trials.

    This reporter was touting all the benefits of marijuana, such as in one seizure disorder, and pain control.

    And, I thought to myself, why don’t we just call it for what it is, another get rich scheme.

    First of all, right off the bat, when it comes to non-opioid pain medication, we see 30% placebo efficacy. But THC and other brownie additives are not placebos. What is the LD 50 of a placebo? What is the LD50 of THC? If folks are going to use the argument that marijuana is so effective for pain control, then what about Marinol(R) which was often prescribed in cachexia for those whose AIDS illnesses were at a point where they were severely weakened and whose bodies could no longer maintain physical strength, to increase an appetite for food.

    In Marinol(R), the drug was the same precise amount in every milky white round pill, not the haphazard unregulated industry present today. Marijuana purchased as brownies or food items isn’t regulated as a drug per se because there is no acceptable quantifiable measurement nor labeling that meets DEA standards.

    Paradoxically, the folks that end up in the hospital after ingesting marijuana brownies, often have a hyperemesis condition i.e. uncontrolled vomiting, which can lead to dehydration, stomach ulceration, and whatever pregnant women encounter when they have uncontrollable vomiting.

    The other much more insidiously serious matter I’ve observed is the ‘kindling’ effect on first signs of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition. It doesn’t go away. If a person is so predisposed, marijuana intoxication seems to accelerate the brain disease.

    Then, I hear the argument about ‘well, what about alcohol? If meeting the age requirement, a person is perfectly allowed to purchase it.” Well, that is if they’re not on probation against purchasing it due to drunk-driving charges. Which is so ironic to me, in that the only recourse society seems to have in restriction of alcoholic intoxication is if it interferes with driving on public roadways. However, Pabst Blue Ribbon isn’t going to get away with selling its product if it doesn’t contain the labeled alcohol content.

    Alcohol in the bloodstream is generally measurable even in exhalation, and depending on the state of the liver metabolized in a predictable fashion. A person never knows the full entirety of effects of marijuana on their body.

    And working the pharmacy night shift, I probably cannot count all the phone calls from folks worried that the metabolized marijuana byproducts will show up in a drug screen the next day. Trust me. You won’t pass the test for some time.

    Yes, I remember that patouli behind the high school skating rink. It was present in the 70s. But, at the time, Alaska had some reasonable marijuana control laws at one time long ago. And, it wasn’t laced with fentanyl. Maybe weed killer?

    Disclaimer: All information from what I’ve observed over the past 40 years.

  10. Allowing “legal” pot sales was a mistake. We have plenty of evidence to show that its a disaster for our society. More children are using it. Every smoker using it is damaging their lungs.

    We all pay for this insanity. More stoned drivers mean more accidents. More accidents means high auto insurance rates.

  11. The only good thing about being in a city and state that enables addicts and sloths is I have small job competition and moving on up (as the Jefferson TV show theme song). And I need a newer car by 2025, since my 17 year old car it wasn’t made to last this long let alone 20 years which I am lucky, and lucky the addict and lazy people are slower to get their life together. Unless GenZ’s parents encourage the young adult kids into work, while preparing the younger half to be work-ready by 15. They can waste their lives away on drugs, I’ll take advantage for their poor choices, and I’ll earn more money and take care of mine and my child’s life. This is the attitude that sets apart out of state Tourists I serve from us-Alaskans. We dwell on one another’s poor choices even pour one another down, they focus on their own life regardless of problems.

  12. What’s weak in this state is not enforcing conditions of probation/parole. This is basically a Cloward-Piven result on the judicial system. There is no way to verify if someone is following C.O.R. (not using drugs/alcohol), and with no consequences it compounds the problem. So we need to adjust to the new paradigm of widespread substance abuse, defunded police, and HIGHer crime rates.

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