Pot makes police paranoid

As I predicted last spring, the campaign against recreational marijuana in Massachusetts is warning of the danger to police running speed traps.

It’s an emotional plea from people who have no idea what they are talking about.

In Colorado, where pot is legal de jure, and California, where it is legal de facto, fatalities track the economy, not the smoke. In Massachusetts traffic deaths dropped after decriminalization.

Early results from Colorado suggested marijuana was substituting for alcohol. That’s a good thing. Stoned drivers are safer than drunk drivers.

If we could prove that marijuana caused five fatal crashes, that doesn’t mean eliminating marijuana would have left five more people alive. Instead there could have been eight more crashes caused by alcohol, or five people killed by a man who needs marijuana to control his mood swings.

If you’re old enough you might recall a time when DUI meant drunk driving. Now it means sober driving while a machine can detect evidence of alcohol. Drunk driving has a pretentious name like “super extreme DUI” (Arizona) or “aggravated DUI” (New York).

Similarly with marijuana there’s a push to treat any detectable level of THC the same as drunk. That’s a bad idea.

I would rather share the road with a driver who smoked a joint last week — the proposed legal limit of THC — than a driver at the current legal limit of alcohol. I would rather share the road with a stoned driver than a drunk driver. Or a police officer running a speed trap.

A shortsighted attempt to get the maximum sentence for each crime in isolation leaves us worse off than a balanced approach.

Did you follow the news about the occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon? The spark for that protest was a court’s decision that federal law punished burning a desert shrub the same as arson of a building. The trial judge said that the former should have a lesser sentence. The appeals court replied that the law was clear and the judge had no authority to ignore it. So, five years in federal prison for a brush fire.

I don’t want a drunk bicycle rider to get the same sentence as a drunk driver. If a drunk guy is thinking clearly enough to choose modes, I’d rather have him pick the bicycle.

I don’t want a “barely detectable level of THC metabolite” driver to get the same sentence as a drunk driver. If somebody is choosing between a pint and a puff before driving home, I’d rather have him pick up the joint.

Prohibition failed. We can guide the choice of sins. We can’t eliminate them.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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