Letter to the Editor: Straight facts about marijuana and driving

Concerns with regard to marijuana’s potential adverse impact on driving performance must be placed in proper context. (Commentary: “Marijuana jeopardizes highway safety,” May 24)

First, it should be stressed that driving under the influence of marijuana is already a criminal offense in Delaware. Doing so will remain a criminal traffic safety violation when the state decides to legalize adult use.

Second, numerous scientific studies exist assessing marijuana-positive drivers and accident risk. In fact, the largest-ever controlled trial assessing marijuana use and motor vehicle accidents, conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reports that marijuana-positive drivers possess virtually no statistically significant crash risk compared to drug-free drivers after controlling for age and gender (U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk. February 2015).

By contrast, drivers with detectable levels of alcohol in their blood at legal limits possess nearly a four-fold risk of accident, even after adjusting for age and gender.

Nevertheless, the use of marijuana prior to driving ought to be discouraged and better efforts ought to be made to identify drivers who may be under the its influence, include greater use of trained Drug Recognition Evaluators, modified roadside field sobriety tests, and the provisional use of roadside cannabis-sensitive detection technology, such as saliva test or breath test technology.

Paul Armentano
Washington, D.C.

Author’s Note: Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — in Washington, D.C. and he is the co-author of the book “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” (Chelsea Green, 2013)

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