How high can you be behind the wheel of a car?

  • Article by: FRANK BRUNI , New York Times
  • Updated: January 15, 2013 - 11:43 AM

Colorado marijuana law raises new questions.

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mcjoe1Jan. 15, 1312:12 PM

I wonder what the field sobriety tests will be like. It seems like it'd be more difficult to test.

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krymsunJan. 15, 1312:21 PM

A 2002 review of seven separate crash culpability studies involving 7,934 drivers reported, “Crash culpability studies [which attempt to correlate the responsibility of a driver for an accident to his or her consumption of a drug and the level of drug compound in his or her system] have failed to demonstrate that drivers with cannabinoids in the blood are significantly more likely than drug-free drivers to be culpable in road crashes.” [Chesher et al. Cannabis and alcohol in motor vehicle accidents. In: Grotenhermen and Russo (Eds) Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential. New York: Haworth Press. 2002: 313-323.] But, unlike with alcohol, the accident risk caused by cannabis, particularly among those who are not acutely intoxicated, appears limited because subjects under its influence are generally aware of their impairment and compensate to some extent, such as by slowing down and by focusing their attention when they know a response will be required. [Allison Smiley. Marijuana: On-Road and Driving Simulator Studies] This response is the opposite of that exhibited by drivers under the influence of alcohol, who tend to drive in a more risky manner proportional to their intoxication.[United Kingdom's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The Classification of Cannabis Under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971. 2002: See specifically: Chapter 4, Section 4.3.5: "Cannabis differs from alcohol; ... it seems not to increase risk-taking behavior. This may explain why it appears to play a smaller role than alcohol in road traffic accidents."]

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krymsunJan. 15, 1312:21 PM

Cannabis use is associated with only marginal increases in traffic accident risk, comparable to anti-histamines and penicillin. An investigator from Aalborg University and the Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo assessed the risk of road accident associated with drivers’ use of licit and illicit drugs, including amphetamines, analgesics, anti-asthmatics, anti-depressives, anti-histamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, opiates, penicillin and zopiclone (a sleeping pill). His study reviewed data from 66 separate studies evaluating the use of illicit or prescribed drugs on accident risk; the study found that cannabis was associated with minor, but not significantly increased odds of traffic injury (1.06) or fatal accident (1.25). By comparison, opiates (1.44), benzodiazepine tranquillizers (2.30), anti-depressants (1.32), cocaine (2.96), amphetamines (4.46), and the sleeping aid zopiclone (2.60) were all associated with a greater risk of fatal accident than cannabis. Anti-histamines (1.12) and penicillin (1.12) were associated with comparable odds to cannabis.

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sharkysharkJan. 15, 1312:22 PM

I don't see anywhere that anything has changed in the employment drug-testing world. Flunk a random test and you're still fired.

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bradd_bdogJan. 15, 1312:57 PM

People that are casual drinkers and get behind the wheel of the car are likely bigger hazards than the people who drink on a regular basis because they actually DO compensate for the alcohol effects. Alcohol tolerance is sort of a myth. You don't really develop a tolerance for it, you develop the ability to compensate for it. Now lets talk about pot users. Chronic pot users, those who smoke daily, will likely compensate just fine. What about teens who already are at risk because of their inexperience? The majority of pot users won't smoke it because of a medical condition, they'll smoke it to get high. OK, same can be said for many alcohol drinkers as well. But, we do have laws and machines in place to find out if they're impaired. Are people saying that pot users just won't be impaired? I highly doubt this.

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bredpathJan. 15, 13 1:24 PM

Colorado and Washington are the guinea pigs. Once those states get the kinks worked out of the system, other states will be soon to follow. Especially when they see how much money it brings in.

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firefight41Jan. 15, 13 1:55 PM

Nothing like closing the gate AFTER the horse got loose.

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jabuyerJan. 15, 13 2:34 PM

Problem is, there is no test that can be immediately administered to check intoxication levels with pot as there is with alcohol. So how do you police pot intoxication on the roads? You don't and that's the problem. But pot heads that vote for such laws don't think about that. Well, they don't think about anything but the number for the pizza delivery guy.

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twspt7Jan. 15, 13 3:42 PM

Anyone who has used both alcohol and pot will tell you that you are far, far safer behind the wheel after ingesting pot than you are after ingesting alcohol. This is not to say that there are no risks associated with cannabis use - there are - but they pale in comparison to the risks associated with alcohol use, and in more scenarios than just driving a car.

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mariomerlotJan. 15, 13 3:46 PM

I get frustrated with all these experts voicing their opinions without having any experience. Being a regular pot smoker for 40 years I soon came to realize that I'm a much better driver when I'm high. I'm more focused and into a safe driving mode. The only times I've ever had to pull off the road were related to having to much to drink. You maybe could make a case for less experienced younger drivers but there will always be some reckless ones regardless if they're drinking or getting high. I would feel much safer if all the drivers were high rather than drunk.

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