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The Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, a drug prohibition group that coordinates local and federal law enforcement, issued the report in August. The report indicates that there were 78 fatalities in 2012 where some party- a motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian- involved in the accident, tested positive for marijuana. That number increased from 39 in 2007.
The director of Rocky Mountain HIDTA, Tom Gorman, says enough research has been done to demonstrate the negative impact smoking pot has on your ability to safely operate a vehicle. However, the report does not clearly specify whether marijuana was to blame for the accidents, and the marijuana industry is skeptical.
Michael Elliot, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, points out that the report fails to differentiate between “testing positive” and “driving impaired”. He goes on to say that testing positive could mean that you smoked marijuana three weeks ago, not necessarily that it adversely affected your ability to drive safely.
Gorman, however, feels that facts presented by his organization will sway the public’s view of recreational marijuana, and he predicts a ballot initiative to overturn Amendment 64 sometime in the next few years.
With the increased legality of recreational marijuana use, driving after smoking- or otherwise consuming marijuana- has become more prevalent. A comprehensive federal research study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse sheds light on the impact of marijuana on driving ability.
The study recruited 18 occasional cannabis smokers- 13 male, 5 female, all between the ages of 21 and 37. The test subjects took 6, 45-minute drives in a driving simulator at the University of Iowa. Each drive session tested a different combination of high or low concentration THC, alcohol, and placebos.
Of the 250 parameters of driving ability examined by the researchers, the three most prudent to this article include: 1) weaving within the lane, 2) the number of times the car left the lane, and 3) the speed of the weaving. Drivers with a blood concentration of 13.1 ug/L THC showed an increase in weaving comparable to a .08 breath alcohol concentration.
Researchers also noted that drinking small quantities of alcohol while smoking pot increased the absorption of THC into the bloodstream, intensifying the high. Similarly, THC postponed the peak of alcohol impairment, causing dual users to feel intoxicated much later than those individuals consuming only alcohol.
Additionally, researchers discovered that pot and alcohol used together have a more of an impact on drivers’ abilities than drugs or alcohol alone.
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