With Colorado and Washington becoming the first states to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use, a research study by Dalhousie University may become a predictor of things to come for these communities. This study published online by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) in 2012 found that drivers, who consumed marijuana within 3 hours prior to driving were nearly twice as likely to cause a serious car accident resulting in serious injury or death than those not under the influence of any substance.
To make matters worse, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (September, 2013) reported that more than a quarter of high school seniors in the US got behind the wheel after smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol, or riding with a driver under the influence of at least one of these substances. These researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor found that driving after marijuana usage had increased from the years 2008 up to 2011. In 2008, it was 10 percent and by 2011 it was 12 percent. Even though alcohol consumption and driving has decreased over the last few years, marijuana use has increased.
One must ask the questions:
1. Have our teens replaced one substance for another substance?
2. Have our voting preferences for legalizing marijuana decreased our
Society’s perceptions on the dangers of marijuana use?
Please recognize that marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. Adolescents when asked the question “what is more easily obtained alcohol or marijuana?” The response is now marijuana. After all, alcohol purchases require an ID but marijuana is unregulated except for medical cannabis.
Law enforcement has recognized the relationship between marijuana and motor vehicle accidents. Some states and countries have actually introduced roadside saliva testing to determine if cannabis or methamphetamine is present in the driver. The problem is that the blood level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the active ingredient in marijuana) has not been legally identified for drug detection such as a blood alcohol level.
It is quite obvious that marijuana use and driving do not mix. The better question is “how long will it take for teenagers and young adults to acknowledge this association? Anti-Drinking and Driving campaigns have taken years to decrease the amount of drinking and driving accidents. Will public funding and public service announcements regarding marijuana usage and driving be available? Will our nationally changing attitudes regarding marijuana use stand in the way of the message that pot and driving can be lethal? All these questions remain to be seen. Stay well.