Pot, including medical marijuana, has become a leading factor in highway crash fatalities in those states where medical marijuana and recreational pot are legal
A report released Wednesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility shows that more drivers are being killed under the influence of drugs in highway crashes than under the influence of alcohol.
In 2015, testing of the drivers killed in crashes revealed that 43 percent were under the influence of drugs, both legal and illegal, while 37 percent were under the influence of alcohol.
Marijuana was involved in more than 1/3rd of the drug-related crashes.
The increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities is most notable in those states where recreational pot and/or medical marijuana have been legalized. “In Colorado,” according to the GHSA report, “marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 48 percent after the state legalized recreational use of the drug.”
According to the Austin American-Statesman, “More than a dozen bills are pending in the Texas Legislature this session, aimed at lifting prohibitions on Texans who want to use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.”
Those who favor legalizing marijuana claim that it is an innocuous substance. That is a lie! Pot advocates also claim that the illegal market in marijuana will disappear once the drug is legalized. That is not true either!
In Colorado and Washington, states that have legalized marijuana, the Mexican drug cartels are still doing a thriving business. Because there are high taxes added to the price of cannabis in legal pot shops, many stoners are getting their pot on street corners where they can buy the weed for far less. And that is also where juveniles can get their pot.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to enforce the federal laws on marijuana which prohibit the manufacture, distribution and possession of the drug, particularly in those states that have legalized pot. Unless Congress changes the laws, the DEA could bring about an end to the legalization of marijuana.
Marijuana is not innocuous nor will its legalization kill the black market in pot.
The GHSA report should be a warning for those who favor decriminalizing or legalizing pot. I hope the majority of Texas legislators have the good sense not to mess with the state’s current laws on marijuana.
neither here nor there says
I wish they would do more about alcohol related deaths and accidents.
Bill Daniels says
If you have legalized pot and are still getting Mexican cartel pot in your state, you have to step back and ask why your state is still failing. The answer is easy, you’ve placed too much sin tax on the home grown pot. If CO taxed pot like it taxed toasters or restaurant meals, there would be no Mexican cartel pot being sold in CO.
Ask NYC how those oppressive sin taxes on cigarettes are going. NYC leads the nation in smuggled in cigs from low tax states. It also leads to petty crime like Eric Garner selling “loosies” on the street, When’s the last time you saw anyone in Houston selling “loosies?” Never sound about right? Even the convenience stores don’t sell single cigarettes here.
Going back just a little bit further, does the Boston Tea Party ring a bell?
Howie Katz says
Bill, you’re spot on. But the pro-pot spiel for legalizing marijuana is that the taxes collected on legal sales of cannabis will fund education and other state expenditures.
It remains to be seen whether or not the sales of pot will be a bonanza for those states that have legalized marijuana. On the other hand, what will the reaulting extra health care, drugged driving traffic crashes, progression to harder drugs and people stoned out of their minds cost those states?
Bill Daniels says
As a libertarian, I’m troubled by the “let’s make a bunch of tax money by levying sin taxes” pro pot argument. Legalizing shouldn’t be done to create a new cash cow for government. I support legalization based on libertarian principles of individual freedom, though.
The solution to your traffic issues are enforcing laws already on the books. (How similar is that to our illegal immigration problem?) If we need to, make dui and dwi laws even more draconian to suit you, then OK. Thanks to MADD mothers, drunk drivers are a social pariah, and we’ve gotten to the point that even if you are totally innocent and in a car wreck that is not your fault, if you’ve been drinking, you still get crucified. Take the same approach with pot. Crucify people involved in wrecks that test positive for pot, even it they test at a level low enough that they were obviously not impaired at the time of the wreck, and even if they are not at fault for the wreck. Great. No problem. We also need to be actually arresting drivers who are driving with no license or suspended licenses. This is also a great way to deport illegal aliens, but that’s another issue.
I also support testing welfare recipients for drugs and alcohol. If I am paying to support people, they shouldn’t be having a party on my dime. Having said that, telling people what they cannot do in the privacy of their own homes isn’t something I feel comfortable with.. In this instance, pot is no different than booze. Hey, want to get drunk, knock yourself out. Just don’t drive and there is no problem.
The gateway drug argument is a little bit more of a gray area. Let me ask you, let’s say the Libertarians seized power, and suddenly all drugs were legalized…..would you say “heck yeah, I’ve always been afraid to use cocaine, meth, and heroin, but now that there are no legal worries I’m going to start using?” Would anyone you know start using those drugs? If pot was legal, would you suddenly start using it? Would people you know start using it?
The thing is, people who have an interest in drugs are already taking them. I wouldn’t expect a bunch of people like me who have no interest in drugs to start using, just because the legal prohibition has ended.
From what I’ve read, the heroin epidemic in the Northeast was created largely by people getting hooked on Oxycontin, hydrocodone, and other Big Pharma produced opioids, then, because of the crackdown on the over prescribing of those drugs, those addicts sought out comparable street drugs to feed their addiction.
I suspect that people who have an interest in drugs will take whatever is available that is cost effective and has the lowest risk for legal trouble. If pot is legal but heroin, meth, coke, etc. will still land you in jail, I’m guessing those with an interest in drugs will stick with the pot, and as long as they aren’t driving, or collecting welfare from the taxpayers, I don’t see how that is our business to tell them no.
Then again, we are both just speculating. As CO and other legalization states put more years under their belts, we should have some data about what actually happens to hard drug use when pot is legalized. One thing we probably can agree on, though, is Texas won’t be a leader in anything pro-pot related, in terms of statewide legalization, so we will have plenty of time to watch the social incubators that are the other states, and hopefully learn from their mistakes or their successes.
Howie Katz says
Bill, I just want to comment on a couple of your well thought out points, the ones on traffic issues and the gateway drug.
By enforcing the laws against DUI we are really not preventing drunk driving and drugged driving, we’re just punishing those drivers who happen to get caught. We may be reducing the problem slightly, but it continues to plague us with carnage on the roadways. When a stoner gets on the road and wipes out a family of four, he may be imprisoned for that, but that’s small consolation for surviving family members.
As for the gateway drug controversy, my years of experience in drug enforcement taught me that marijuana leads many of its users to graduate to drugs which most people consider more dangerous. The pro-pot crowd debunks that argument, but believe me, the empirical evidence is out there. That’s why I consider marijuana as our most dangerous drug and that’s why I am so opposed to the legalization of pot.
Jim Burgess says
The whole “we have to use laws to increase safety and prevent deaths from stoned/pot smoking drivers” argument is a non-starter and you know it. Laws don’t prevent the bad acts, it merely punishes them. If you believe that making things illegal will stop needless death and injury, then we should be reinstating prohibition and repeal the Second Amendment.
I get it, you are law enforcement, and you take a very “law enforcement” position on pot legalization. Doesn’t mean that it is the right position.
Fat Albert says
Good point! Using that reasoning we should abolish all speed limits. . . . .
I am positive about one thing – a person who is in prison for injuring an innocent victim while stoned or drunk, is not capable of injuring someone else.
fat albert says
As regards legalizing marijuana, I’m ambivalent. I think that it mostly will exchange one set of problems for a different set. It certainly hasn’t been the boon that Colorado politicians touted.
As regards DUI – there’s one Scandinavian country that has a simple penalty: first DUI conviction – loss of license for 10 years. 2nd conviction – loss of license for life. No exceptions, no plea bargains. Driving without a license – immediate felony with prison time.
I’d add something to the mix: If you cause an accident while DUI and someone is hurt, it’s vehicular assault. If you kill someone while DUI it’s murder. Same penalties. I guarantee that seeing a couple of people on death row for killing someone while stoned or drunk will cause a lot of people to think. And making them do hard time will at least keep them off the streets.
Seeing someone else get hard prison time for a death or injury while driving impaired will do little to discourage others – they don’t see themselves as impaired. It would be better to give first offenders(no injury or death) 30 days in jail, served over 15 consecutive weekends(they can still go to their job during the week), plus require an interlock device. Second offense 30 weekends in jail, third offense 18 months of weekends, etc. I agree that any injury or death due to impaired driving should result in some pretty hard time.
Howie Katz says
Ross, weekend sentences for minor offenses are good because, as you say, they allow the offender to keep his job. But they don’t work out the way you figured it.
Not all jurisdictions allow weekend time, but in those that do, the offender must check in Friday nights and is released early Monday mornings. For that he is credited with four days each weekend. So, the offender with a 30 -day sentence would serve only seven consecutive weekends. They would probably credit him with two days off for good behavior.