Seeing as L.A. is the marijuana dispensary capital of the world, it also must be the stoned-driving (DWS) epicenter of America as well. Right?
Well, it's that kind of thinking that got a widely publicized paper on smoking weed and getting behind the wheel in trouble. The research sort of suggests that accidents were reduced in pot-legal states like California because people replace drinking with getting stoned (and either drive better or drive less).
Not so fast, say critics. One doesn't necessarily lead to the other:
The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America isn't buying it (and the Huffington Post reports that even the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is expected to weigh in.
The coalitions says …
… the authors contend that medical marijuana laws cause people to drink less and therefore not drive drunk. This is most certainly a spurious and coincidental relationship, however, as a large body of data points to other reasons why we have witnessed historic reductions in road fatalities over the last 20 years.
The group says that “crash fatalities were already coming down far before the introduction of medical marijuana.”
The German research (PDF) says that “traffic fatalities fall by nearly 9 percent after the legalization of medical marijuana” and hypothesizes:
… It is possible that legalizing medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities though its effect on substance use in public. Alcohol is often consumed in restaurants and bars, while many states prohibit the use of medical marijuana in public. Even where it is not explicitly prohibited, anecdotal evidence suggests that the public use of medical marijuana can be controversial.
If marijuana consumption typically takes place at home, then designating a
driver for the trip back from a restaurant or bar becomes unnecessary, and legalization could reduce traffic fatalities even if driving under the influence of marijuana is every bit as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.
Ah yes, the stoned-in theory (scratches chin).
The paper inspired Time magazine to declare:
States that legalize medical marijuana see fewer fatal car accidents, according to a new study, in part because people may be substituting marijuana smoking for drinking alcohol.
The Anti-Drug Coalitions begs to differ and argues that research clearly shows “marijuana use was linked to heightened risk of crash involvement.”
Another study, however, found that stoned drivers might tend to go slower and operate more deliberately — and thus be safer.
We like that theory. And you can never discount the effectiveness of on-the-road paranoia. They're out to get ya, so drive carefully.