Legalized marijuana and traffic fatalities: Should NJ worry?
One of the arguments that comes up when the topic of legalizing marijuana in New Jersey is the projected increase in traffic accidents.
There were two studies conducted, one by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which showed collisions in states that had legalized marijuana claim frequencies were about 3 percent higher than would have been anticipated without legalization over the time period they tested. The other study, published in The American Journal for Public Health, found no increase in vehicle crash fatalities in Colorado and Washington, relative to similar states, after legalization.
Dr David Nathan, Founder and Board President of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, and a guest on my show, commented on the idea that traffic fatalities would rise of marijuana were legalized. "The issue is it's not just about cannabis but about the use of all drugs with people on the roads, we've gotta find better ways to keep people on the roads safe", said Nathan.
As Nathan noted, "The question of drugged driving is one that I regard as being one of the most serious ones, because it's on that we don't have a simple answer to."
Nathan compared driving drunk to driving under the influence of weed.
"The increased risk of a crash with alcohol is 12 to 15 times the risk if you're not drunk, the risk with cannabis if you are under the influence is about two to three times the risk if you hadn't used it, that's similar to sedatives like opioids and valium and even stimulants can impair your driving to a degree" said Nathan.
Nathan likes the idea of many more drug recognition experts and have them available all the time anywhere. As he noted, "It won't be cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than keeping so many people incarcerated for lower level marijuana possession."
Nathan has spoken to Lt. Christopher Dudzik, who is the president of the New Jersey Association of Drug Recognition Experts. Nathan reported, "They don't take a position on legalization itself, but he thinks they can handle it because when they get the good training, then they are much better than that simple field sobriety test you see out there. It's more sensitive than that, and New Jersey already has the second largest number of drug recognition experts in the country second, only to California, which is a much larger state"
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