Motor vehicle fatalities are dramatically increasing in states where they have legalized marijuana, as I predicted they would. Ironically, in these same states, advocates keep pushing for reductions on alcohol — down to the point where an average man could not legally have a single drink, and many women could have none at all, before getting behind the wheel.
It makes no sense. As a consulting forensic pathologist, I know the worst vehicular fatalities involve accidents where one (or both) involved drivers didn’t have the proverbial “one too many,” but a dozen drinks too many.
Furthermore, these same marijuana advocates don’t want you filling your lungs with a single tobacco cigarette. But they have no problem with you inhaling sickly sweet smoke from another burning plant.
Apparently for the politically correct crowd, when it comes to marijuana, data, science, and consistency are beside the point.
In Washington State, the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents has tripled since legalization of marijuana. And drugged driving was involved in more than 28 percent of deaths. Turns out, combining marijuana with alcohol increases the chances of a fatality by 24 percent.
It doesn’t take much to become impaired
Modern imaging studies show patients with as little as 1.5 nanograms of THC — the “active” ingredient in marijuana — have impaired psychomotor function of the brain, with significant driving impairment.
We are used to talking about drugs in milligram amounts. But a nanogram is one-thousandth of one-thousandth of a milligram. That’s not much.
Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show psychomotor impairment may persist even after the drug dissipates. In other words, the brain impairment may be permanent, as other studies show. And there may be no such thing as “sobering up” — ever!
Impairments related to marijuana also extend into the workplace.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana users have 85 percent more work-related injuries and 78 percent more absenteeism. They also have a 55 percent higher risk of causing an industrial accident. So — even though they come to work less often — they have fare more accidents and injuries. Furthermore, employees taking drugs triple workplace medical costs.
Thankfully, there is some resistance to the legalization movement…
Legalization doesn’t always hold up in court
In Colorado, a state with “medicalized” marijuana, an employee who took marijuana to treat back spasms was terminated when he tested positive for drugs. And the State Supreme Court upheld the decision to terminate the employee. Since marijuana is still illegal under federal laws, the court ruled he could not seek protection under Colorado’s “lawful off-duty activities” statute.
Clearly, while marijuana is becoming more socially acceptable, federal law isn’t buying it. In fact, doctors may be held liable for wrongful deaths in court if they prescribed marijuana to people who died and/or caused the deaths of others in motor vehicle or workplace fatalities.
In court, the doctors are asked about all the scientific literature showing impaired reaction time, lapse of concentration, sensory inhibitions, and perceptual changes. Essentially these factors constitute the definition of driving while intoxicated, as already clearly established in courts for alcohol. Once the court has established knowledge of these scientific facts, the doctor is left without a defensible legal position.
Unfortunately, at this point, doctors have to follow their own instincts about marijuana. There are no prescribing guidelines for them to follow, even in the states with legalized medical marijuana. But even if we did have guidelines, I don’t know if they would do any good.
Just think about the opioid drug problem. Everyone now knows the drugs are overprescribed for chronic pain. And the CDC is currently working on developing prescribing guidelines to help physicians. But the problem is so big — what good will they do? We are only talking about guidelines, after all. Fortunately, there are many safe and effective natural approaches to pain, and I tell you all about them in my new Arthritis Relief & Reversal Protocol.
For any doctor or patient who still has a hard time remembering these facts about marijuana, I have a simple mnemonic device: Marijuana Means Much More Motor Fatalities, Workplace Accidents, and Medical Costs.
- “Medical Marijuana and Driving,” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 2/25/2016