A couple of new reports about stoned drivers are raising some serious questions about the drug’s safety. The first report was published by the Northwest High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It looked specifically at the impact of marijuana legalization on drivers in the state of Washington.
This study reported that the number of stoned drivers involved in fatal car crashes who had THC in their systems rose by 122% from 2010 to 2014. It also said that 64% of marijuana DUIs during 2014 involved youth.
The second study was published by AAA. It also looked at stats about fatal car crashes and marijuana use in Washington. According to AAA, there were 3,031 drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2010-2014. Of those drivers, 303 of them were stoned drivers and had THC in their systems
AAA also found that the number of drivers who tested positive for THC has been steadily increasing since legalization. Since the new laws went into effect, the proportion of drivers testing positive for THC has risen by around 9 percent every year.
Many people who are opposed to cannabis legalization see these reports as evidence that cannabis is dangerous and should not be legal.
For example, Cully Stimson cited both reports in an article published by The Daily Signal.
He used these reports as the basis for his conclusion that “the science is clear and unambiguous—pot is a dangerous substance.”
But others have questioned these types of conclusions.
Jesse Ventura, for example, wrote his article about the AAA report. In it, he said that stats about car crashes were not necessarily proof that cannabis is more dangerous than other things.
“Are there going to be more accidents due to legal marijuana use? Sure,” he wrote.
“Just as there’s more accidents due to driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Just as there’s more accidents due to smoking cigarettes in your car. Just as there’s more accidents due to cell phone use and texting while driving.”
And the science may not be as clear as people like Stimson think.
A report published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was clear on this point.
“The existing . . . research have produced different estimates of risk for marijuana use,” it said.
“Some of these studies have suggested that marijuana use has minimal or no effect on the likelihood of crash involvement while others have estimated a small increase in the risk of crash involvement.”
The study concluded that fears about stoned drivers are over exaggerated. As with so many other things relating to cannabis, what seems most clear is that more research is needed.