Marijuana and traffic safety

by Jon Christian

Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson has a fascinating piece on the challenges of designing laws to prohibit driving under the influence of cannabis. The bottom line seems to be that while stoned drivers are less safe than sober ones, blood tests for THC — which can stay in a user’s blood for days after use — are not a good at indicating whether a person is actually impaired.

If the goal is to arrest only people who are driving dangerously, Ramaekers says, then laws like Washington’s could lead to a rash of false convictions.

While booze can make people drive faster and more aggressively, marijuana has the opposite effect: Pot smokers, studies show, tend to compensate for their impairment by slowing down and leaving larger gaps between themselves and other cars. Still, Ramaekers cautions against thinking that stoners acting like Sunday drivers are safer. Marijuana users may “try to create their own box of safety, and within that world they can operate fine,” he says. “But there’s a lot of other information outside of that box that they can’t process, and that is a problem.”