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How’s It Going with Marijuana Legalization in Washington State? Not Well.

A lot of people think of marijuana as a somewhat innocent drug that is just about people enjoying themselves – like going out for an ice cream – rather than something that’s dangerous to the individual or society. Four years ago, in December 2012, the state of Washington legalized marijuana. Over the years it has become very obvious that marijuana is anything but innocent, at least not on the road.

A few months ago, the AAA (American Automobile Association) Foundation for Traffic Safety published research it had been conducting on the connection between marijuana and traffic accidents in Washington State.

Here’s what they found:

  • The percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana has more than doubled in the last four years – since marijuana legalization. It went from 8 percent to 17 percent.
  • One in six drivers involved in fatal crashes have recently used marijuana.

Besides the fact that much of the research on the effects created by marijuana seemed to be ignored in the quest for the benefits of making marijuana into a profitable business, there has been virtually no research done on how much marijuana will, specifically, impair someone’s driving. And the complexity of doing so would really eat into the profits.

How Much THC is Too Much?

The major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is THC. That’s what makes someone ‘high.’ And being high is what makes someone unsafe to drive. But how much THC are you getting when you smoke marijuana? It’s almost impossible to know.

  • There are many strains of marijuana and they all contain different levels of THC. New strains are also bred specifically to have very high THC content.
  • Also, even if someone does know how much THC they’re about to take, they don’t know how it will affect them. Some people have smoked a lot of marijuana in one sitting and felt virtually nothing. On the other hand, I know someone who smoked part of a joint and couldn’t find his legs. He was totally disoriented. But the amount of THC in his marijuana may have been no more, or even less than, those who were not affected at all.
  • Even if we could tell the strength of the marijuana, it might not be the same by the time someone is tested after having been involved in an accident. Unlike when checking blood alcohol, you can’t just pull out a breathalyzer when you’re checking a driver for marijuana. You need a warrant first. And that could take hours. In the meantime, the THC in the person’s body may have decreased so much that the amount doesn’t even register on the machine.
  • Someone who has smoked a lot of marijuana over a long period of time (years) will measure differently than someone who smokes it occasionally and has started fairly recently. The ‘veteran’ will show much more marijuana in their system and for a longer period of time than the newcomer.

Whether or not someone will work out how much is too much isn’t known. But what is known is that anyone smoking marijuana, in a car with someone smoking marijuana or on the street when a motorist who smoked marijuana is passing by is twice as likely to be killed as they were before marijuana is legal.

That’s Washington State, but I don’t know of any reason why it wouldn’t also apply to other States.

To make things safer, ensure that anyone you know who smokes grass gets help in drug rehab. And pay attention to the bills going through both federal government and that of your State. When it’s time to vote, take this into account.

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