More Pot, Safer Roads?



In addition to stoned dogs, pot prohibitionists worry about stoned drivers, warning that legalization will increase traffic fatalities. In my latest Forbes column, I argue that legalization may actually have the opposite effect. Here is how it starts:

The anti-pot group Project SAM claims drug test data show that marijuana legalization in Washington, approved by voters in that state at the end of 2012, already has made the roads more dangerous. The group notes with alarm that the percentage of people arrested for driving under the influence of a drug (DUID) who tested positive for marijuana rose by a third between 2012 and 2013. "Even before the first marijuana store opens in Washington, normalization and acceptance [have] set in," says Project SAM Chairman Patrick J. Kennedy. "This is a wakeup call for officials and the public about the dangerousness of this drug, especially when driving."

In truth, these numbers do not tell us anything about the dangerousness of marijuana. They do not even necessarily mean that more people are driving while high. Furthermore, other evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana could make the roads safer, reducing traffic fatalities by encouraging the substitution of marijuana for alcohol.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. Did they ban ALt Text,too, or is it just my computer?

  2. OK yeah that makes perfect sense dude.

    1. Where is TiggyFoo?

  3. Give someone a few glasses of liquid confidence and they’re likely to drive more recklessly than normal.

    Give someone a few puffs of weed and they’re likely to drive slower than normal.

    1. Give someone a few puffs of weed and they’re likely to drive slower than normal

      And promptly get rear-ended by the drunk. (or anyone else on the roads around me)

    2. OK, but driving slowly is also dangerous. Not as dangerous, granted.

      1. When it comes to sober freeway driving, IMO, driving slowly is more dangerous.

      2. I didn’t say slowly. I said slower. So if they normally speed ten miles over, they’ll probably drive closer to the speed limit. Whereas the drunk will probably drive even faster.

        1. So if I give a few drinks to a Chinese lady, she’ll drive more normally?

  4. Furthermore, other evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana could make the roads safer, reducing traffic fatalities by encouraging the substitution of marijuana for alcohol.

    Citation needed on MJ being a substitute good for Alcohol. they serve two very different social and pharmacological functions, I’m going to have to see evidence.

    1. Alcohol. they serve two very different social…functions,
      I’m gonna need a citation on THAT.

    2. I think you would see a lot of substitution of marijuana for alcohol if there were less workplace drug testing. I bet that drives it even more than legality. A lot of people would prefer pot if they could get away with it, but desire some kind of intoxicant that you can live with, so alcohol is it. Alcohol is more conducive to boisterous fun party times for a lot of people, but it also works for quiet relaxation.


    Pot, kettle. I believe you two know each other.

    1. Kennedy was not carrying his driver’s license or his congressional identification.

      Which one do you think he shows the cops when he gets pulled over?

    2. U.S. Capitol Police officers suspected that Kennedy was intoxicated when he staggered out of his Ford Mustang shortly before 3 a.m. after he nearly hit a police car and then crashed into a security barrier. But the six-term congressman … was not given a sobriety test. Instead, Capitol Police commanders ordered that Kennedy be driven to his nearby home, touching off complaints that the son of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) received special treatment.

      Now what would make anyone think he recieved special treatment? Wouldn’t any one of us just be given a ride back home in the same circumstances?

      BWAHAHAHAHA!!!11!!!!! Oh man, I just couldn’t hold back the laughter anymore.

  6. normalization and acceptance [have] set in

    Translation into Non-Progressive: We’re happy the tax the shit out of it and stuff the money into the pockets of liberal voters but remember that users must be publicly shamed.

  7. Jacob, I’m glad you’re hitting on the substitution effect of pot for alcohol, as in the Morris study you cited.

    I have ADHD, and since I started taking stimulant medication for it, I have no desire for alcohol and little for other drugs. I could probably wipe out half my regrets if I’d treated it sooner. A high proportion of criminals have untreated ADHD, and they’re going to fill that chemical desire somehow.

    Anti-drug advocates always point to pot as a gateway drug, yet never mention it as working as a gateway the other way, from hard to soft. I spend a fair amount of time on drug forums, and it’s interesting hearing from opium addicts who substitute (currently) legal kratom for opiates.

  8. Project SAM Chairman Patrick J. Kennedy

    Where’s Lee Harvey when we need him?

  9. Pot may very well act as a substitute for alcohol. But there is a flip side here, as usual. Pot combined with alcohol may increase the dangers to driving. There is a good reason why in Amsterdam most cannabis cafes cannot serve alcohol as well. There are a few. One well known exception is a bar in the basement, but then you go upstairs for cannabis. Nevertheless, nearly all cannot sell alcohol with cannabis.
    So, it seems substitution good, but combination, bad.
    Here in Nevada we had a legalization initiative scuttled largely because of two, yes two, freak fatal accidents in Las Vegas in which pot was involved. The drivers were late shift workers, one a stripper I believe. They probably fell asleep at the wheel. Did the pot contribute to sleepiness? Was it Indica?
    Marijuana and driving is a sensitive issue the prohibitionists will beat like the dead horse it is unless some clear distinctions are made.Not likely when government is around.

    1. Just smoke pot before you start drinking.

      This is purely anecdotal, but in my experience if you get stoned and then start drinking, you will usually drink less and keep it together pretty well. If you get drunk and then smoke some weed, you never know.

  10. The thing about pot and driving is that it is very different for people with different habits and tolerances. A lot of people who don’t use much pot get really fucked up if they smoke. Those people shouldn’t be driving and probably don’t want to. On the other hand, I have absolutely no concern about well habituated daily smokers driving. And there have been experiments that back this up. I’d much rather drive with someone like that who just did 12 bong rips than with most people after 2 or 3 beers.

    How about using actual impairment as the standard?

    1. I’m fine with an impairment standard, so long as there’s a chemical minimum to accompany it. I think limiting cops’ discretion is worth the risk of a few impaired-but-under-limit drivers. If they’re impaired, they’re probably breaking laws under an unimpaired standard. Of course, it’s possible that the chemical limit would essentially become the impairment standard.

      1. If I wasn’t clear, I’m in favor of the person having to be both above the chemical limit AND exhibiting impairment. Preferably with the latter determination performed first.

        1. I think I see your point and understand the desire to want to protect others against the effects of bad/impaired drivers, but if evidence shows one person with X in their system is dangerous, yet another person with a higher amount is fine – any arbitrary line drawn will be abusive by definition to some percentage of people.

          Add to that the simple idea that one-size fits all solutions generally sucks (education, health care, BMI, etc, etc) and it gets worse.

          & sorry, but adding in the constraint that one must also be impaired won’t make any difference either.

          If you imagine a world today where that’s how DUI/DWI laws currently worked ? we all know the end result would be anytime you cross the legal limit, the arresting officer will have seen impairment as well.

          Go a step further – let’s say your law exists and you were over the limit, but not impaired. What do you think your chances are at trial?

          Not only is it a civilian’s word against the moral agents of the government, but also the defendant was stoned/drunk at the time.

          …to be continued…

        2. …continued….

          & even if it weren’t for any of that ? as a libertarian, any preventative crime is bad news.

          Crimes’ enforcement by its very nature is not about prevention, but about justice (not that there’s much justice in the legal system today) and safety.

          Not that any of that matters. It doesn’t matter how stupid this is, doesn’t matter it won’t actually help, and no matter how many people know it’s stupid before it gets passed, these laws are on the way.

          Stiffer penalties, like 20-to-life for any accident while impaired with innocent human injuries might actually help.

          Not what we should, but harsher penalties have been shown to actually work towards changing behavior.

          However, since dealing solely with crimes’ results doesn’t allow for that gooey-gray-layer the police state needs to thrive, and since none of this will not help AA, MADD, & the others like them (DARE, DADD, etc), it’s never going to happen.

          & since most people are seemingly very comfortable screwing their neighbors by use of the state, most of society will be happier with the results.

          People everywhere will celebrate these new laws usefulness and their own superiority for supporting such a common sense measures… all the while it does little to prevent the actual problem and untold thousands will have their lives impacted, negatively and unnecessarily.

          But that’s ok – eggs/omelet and all that, right? After all – it’s for their own good.

    2. I couldn’t agree more. The occasional pot smoker driving will show a lower THC level but be far more impaired than the habitual smoker, who is probably more used to driving high than sober anyway. On top of that, its difficult to measure how high someone actually is at the time they are driving. That’s why its hard to agree on a specific level at which a person is “impaired” I think that actual impairment should be the deciding factor in whether or not someone gets behind the wheel, however, that is hard to standardize, especially when alcohol and marijuana are being mixed.

  11. The idea that pot legalization will increase traffic fatalities in any way similar to alcohol is idiotic. People believe that marijuana impairs driving ability far more than it actually does. Drivers are far more likely to drive recklessly and ignore traffic rules when drunk and, if anything, are more likely to drive slower and take more precaution when high.

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