Think the legalization of marijuana won’t have any public health impacts?
Our friends at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety today released the results of a study that found that fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after that state legalized the drug.
The foundation’s analysis found that 8 percent of fatal crashes in 2013 involved drivers who had recently used marijuana. That number jumped to 17 percent by 2014. Washington legalized marijuana in 2012.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is strongly against the legalization of marijuana. We have concerns over its effect on workplace safety and productivity, the effect it will have on the worker’s compensation system, its impact on the workforce talent pipeline and Arizona’s overall economic development efforts.
But we’re also deeply concerned about its larger societal and public health impacts. The agent in pot that delivers the high to users, known as THC, in today’s marijuana isn’t the same stuff that was at Woodstock; it’s a lot more powerful, as discussed in an Arizona Chamber Foundation paper on the topic of legalization:
Unlike the marijuana of the 1960s and 1970s, when levels of THC (the psychoactive component) in marijuana averaged around 1% to just under 4%, the average marijuana being sold in dispensaries today has an average THC level of 18.7%, with some retail marijuana containing THC levels as high as 30%. Products like hash oil, which can be vaporized or infused into foods and drinks, can start at 85% potency. The rising potency level of today’s marijuana is no accident; bigger stronger plants maximize profits for the growers and meet the demand of consumers seeking a more intense high.
The AAA Foundation study examines the challenges drug legalization presents for law enforcement and traffic safety, including the lack of scientific data on how varying levels of THC affect individual drivers and the lack of a reliable and efficient roadside test to measure impairment caused by pot.
The full AAA Foundation report is worth reading. There are many good arguments against marijuana legalization, but the AAA research is particularly impactful when one considers that legalization will make us less safe every time we get behind the wheel.