After the passage of Question 4 in Massachusetts, which legalized marijuana for adult use, police chiefs in the state are expressing their concern about drivers impaired by marijuana clogging the roadways.
To have this fear, police chiefs have to be unaware of a couple things:
- There is little evidence that legalization is causing a problem on the roadways of states like Washington and Colorado.
- There are already drivers on the road that are high on marijuana.
“It’s very difficult to tell when someone uses that drug and how it correlates to their impairment right now,” said Walpole, MA Police Chief John Carmichael. “Now you see what a difficult position the police are going to be in to deal with this.”
“Going to be in?” Under Question 4 driving while under the influence of cannabis is still illegal, so the notion is now many more drivers are going to break that law because marijuana is legal to possess? An increase so large that what is not a problem now will soon become a major problem?
The ineffectiveness of ascertaining THC in one’s bloodstream as a way of detecting driving impairment is another difficulty. Drivers who are involved in accidents and have THC in their blood could have smoked a joint days ago; it wouldn’t account for the accident, but it would be filed under “marijuana-related” accidents when compiling statistics.
Many police departments are going to have to learn what actually constitutes impairment by watching the actions of a driver as opposed to what is in their blood. And they are going to have to realize that someone who has used marijuana is not impaired in a way that’s similar to someone who is drinking alcohol.
There will come a time when technology advances to the point where police will be able to tell how long ago you ingested marijuana; this may not speak to impairment since everyone has a different tolerance when it comes to cannabis, but it will be enough for them to make a marijuana DUI stick to a driver.
What cannabis users and consumers must realize is that restrictions on driving are going to be strict when it comes to them. While you may think you’re fine to drive, police may disagree and that’s a battle you’re probably not going to win. “Stoned driving” may not actually be a problem in states that legalize, but if those in authority think that it is then it will be treated as such.