The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said a 20-month survey of drivers in 2013 and 2014 found that while drinking dramatically raises the chance of a crash, there was no evidence that marijuana use is statistically significant in boosting wreck rates.
Marijuana users were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use. But that’s because other factors — especially that more younger men are involved in crashes, NHTSA said — rather than marijuana use itself.
By comparing marijuana use among those in crashes and those who weren’t, the safety agency said “other factors, such as age and gender, appear to account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.”
While this suggests that making marijuana legal for adults will not lead to more dangerous roads, as opponents to reform frequently claim, MPP’s Mason Tvert maintains that driving under the influence must be avoided:
“Nobody should drive while impaired by any substance, and that’s why there are laws on the books to address it. While the research is pretty clear that marijuana use is not remotely as problematic as alcohol when it comes to driving, it can cause impairment. We need to have laws that are grounded in science and punish only drivers who were actually impaired. It’s worth noting that there is also research that has shown people who have used marijuana are more likely to recognize if they are impaired than those who have used alcohol,” he said.
But he said police often go too far.
“Arresting hundreds of thousands of people for simply possessing marijuana will not do anything to prevent people who make the mistake of driving under the influence. We would never approach the problem of drunk driving by making it illegal for adults to drink responsibly. It’s just as foolish to do that when it comes to adults who use marijuana responsibly,” he said.
Last December, the New York Department of Health released more than a hundred pages of regulations related to the medical marijuana program. Over the past month, advocates for the Compassionate Care Act have voiced major concerns that the regulations are far too restrictive and would leave many patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions without safe, legal access to their medicine. The state is accepting public comments until February 13.
Our allies at Compassionate Care New York, who led the grassroots effort to pass the medical marijuana law, have submitted several pages of comments outlining their concerns. You can read them by clicking on “CCNY Concerns with Draft MMJ Regulations” here. Their major concerns include:
— A lack of access or accommodation for low-income patients;
— Too few dispensaries and a ban on delivery services;
— A prohibition on whole-plant medicine and a ban on edibles, topicals, and other medical preparations; and
— No clear process for adding more qualifying conditions, even with scientific and medical support.
Last week, New Mexico State Rep. Bill McCamley introduced HB 160, the Cannabis Revenue & Freedom Act. This bill would treat marijuana similarly to alcohol, allowing adults 21 and over to use, possess, and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana with no penalty. HB 160 would also set up a taxed and regulated market for marijuana production and sale.
While HB 160 is an important reform that should be passed, the New Mexico legislature is also considering another bill that would unfairly target marijuana consumers. HB 120 would declare anyone with an extremely small amount of THC per millimeter of blood guilty of driving under the influence — even if the person could prove they were actually not impaired! Although intoxicated driving should not be tolerated, knee jerk ideas like per se limits are unethical, unnecessary, and not supported by science.
Northern California defense attorney Joseph Tully has posted some useful tips on how to show support in the courtroom when someone is facing marijuana-related charges.
According to Tully, whose website highlights his experience defending medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, cultivators, and caregivers:
Being tried in court for any crime, especially a victimless crime, is a trying process. Not just for the defendants, but for their friends, family, and supporters as well. When the crime involves medical marijuana in California, it is often the defendant who is victimized. Community support is important to help a friend get through this difficult time and to support the larger cause. …
What are the best ways to support both the cause and our friends at the courthouse? I have lots of experience as a criminal defense attorney in the courtroom. My courthouse advice for my clients can apply to their friends and supporters as well. Here are six ways you can show support during a medical marijuana case.
You can read Tully’s full post, “Weed on Trial: 6 Ways to Show Support in Court,” after the jump.
A Kansas bill that would reduce harsh penalties for people found in possession of marijuana received a strong vote of support yesterday from the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice. HB 2049 received a unanimous vote by the committee and will now be presented on the floor of the House for a vote.
HB 2049 would drop the sentence range for first time offenders from a Class A to a Class B misdemeanor — reducing the possible maximum jail sentence from a year to six months and reducing the maximum fine from $2,500 to $1,000. Second-time offenders would likewise see a reduction in penalties – taking them from a felony to a misdemeanor.
According to testimony by the Kansas Sentencing Commission, these simple changes represent over a million dollars in savings and would free up space in overcrowded jails. While a majority of Americans prefer a system that would remove criminal penalties entirely for adult consumers, these changes would represent a welcome improvement for those who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol.