Once again, the debate as to exactly how dangerous it is to drive while stoned has been ignited in the United States. Most sensible people generally agree that it isn’t a good idea to use anything whatsoever that affects your judgement before getting behind the wheel, but it seems there are still quite a lot of people (especially in Canada) who believe otherwise.
Before that however, there was a story this week out of Portland which once again highlighted the dangers of driving while stoned…albeit in one of the most incredibly ironic ways imaginable. Basically, the 18-year-old driver in question was arrested after he was found to have been driving under the influence of marijuana, immediately after crashing his car into a Happy Valley marijuana dispensary. He was hit with a variety of charges including criminal endangerment and DUI – the passenger in the car he was driving was also injured in the accident.
According to official police reports, he first went into a parked car near the dispensary – named Stumptown Cannabis – before then colliding with the store itself. Local law enforcement officers were of course more interested in the causes and effects of the accident, though likewise couldn’t help but highlight the irony of it all. Mercifully, there weren’t any employees present at the time and nor were there any serious injuries caused.
Which once again begs the obvious question – exactly how safe or otherwise is it to drive after smoking cannabis?
Well, as mentioned a little earlier, anything that impairs your ability to make decisions or remain as active and alert as you can possibly be isn’t something that should be indulged in before driving. Admittedly, cannabis will always affect people entirely differently and some will tell you that they are never more alert and responsive than while they are stoned. It would certainly appear that this is a surprisingly common attitude in Canada.
According to a recent study, somewhere in the region of 50% of all cannabis users in Canada who also happen to be drivers believe it is perfectly safe for them to drive their cars after smoking cannabis. A survey was carried out focusing on those who both drive and consider themselves to be regular cannabis users – a whopping 44% of which said that their marijuana consumption had absolutely no detrimental effect whatsoever on their ability to drive safely. By contrast, 42% of those surveyed said that it would make at least some kind of difference to the driving if they were to get behind the wheel while stoned, the remaining 14% saying they hadn’t made their minds up yet.
This can only be looked at as a somewhat worrying statistic as it is difficult to believe that 50% (or thereabouts) of marijuana users are actually better or even competent drivers when they are stoned. Over the past couple of years, safety experts and insurance companies alike have been working frantically to highlight the true dangers of marijuana consumption prior to getting behind the wheel – something the pot-smoking public in general doesn’t seem to agree with.
At the same time, however, there are quite literally millions of drivers across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere who genuinely believe that they are better drivers after drinking alcohol. Even if this were to be true in their particular case, turning a blind eye to driving under the influence of alcohol would only lead to thousands more entirely preventable deaths on the roads every month.
All of which leads to one intelligent conclusion – it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana because in most instances, it has the potential to prove dangerous. Even if you yourself don’t believe you’re any less safe behind the wheel while stoned, this simply isn’t and never will be the way authorities see it.