I’m preparing the news for today when I come across this story from CBS News: Recreational pot: Colorado police going to new lengths to spot high drivers. Immediately I am beaten about my frontal cortex with cognitive dissonance so profound I had to smoke a bowl lest I go full “Scanners” all over my desktop. Read these few lines and see if you have the same reactions I did:
The law legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado says the state must “regulate marijuana like alcohol.”
And like alcohol, pot can have dangerous consequences behind the wheel.
However, unlike drunk drivers, it can be very hard to actually identify a stoned driver, so authorities are launching an offensive, and Colorado police are learning to take a harder look.
State troopers take part of a nine-day course, specifically training to spot drivers under the influence of marijuana.
Sgt. Blake White, of the Colorado State Patrol, said, “We’re kind of learning along, as it goes, as far as how much it’s affecting people.”
Take your pick of reactions -- this is Chinese Restaurant Ranting, family style...
- Could it be hard to spot us because, um, unlike the drunk drivers, we’re not speeding, swerving, wrecking, and killing?
- Nine days? I think I could take any random great-grandma with cataracts and train her to spot a drunk driver in nine minutes, but it takes nine days (paid, of course, and perhaps overtime) to train law enforcement professionals who work every day patrolling traffic how to spot a stoned driver?
- Wait, you mean to tell us Colorado’s had medical marijuana all this century and we’ve let all these patients drive around allegedly presenting “dangerous consequences behind the wheel” without training cops how to spot them until now?
- Um, aren’t Colorado’s driving accident and fatality rates lower than the US national average in fatalities per miles driven and per capita, continuing a steady decline since... well, look at that, since 2000, the year medical marijuana passed?
- We’re just now “learning along” how marijuana affects people behind the wheel? I guess that’s because Amendment 64 invented marijuana and cars where none existed before, huh? As my friend Keith Stroup said recently, “Where the hell do they think we’ve been all these years?” Certainly people have smoked pot and driven in the past fifty years, but only now it’s a big concern? Not 1979, when twice as much pot smoking was going on?
- Why are we so fixated on rooting out the drivers we can’t spot who’ve used marijuana? I’m not suggesting marijuana isn’t impairing, but it is less impairing than antihistamines, stimulants, narcotics, and sedatives, both over the counter and prescribed, and nobody ever suggests a per se ng/mL limit test for users of those drugs.
- And actually, marijuana’s not all that impairing compared to divided attention tasks frequently engaged in by a majority of drivers -- listening to music, having conversations, disciplining kids, futzing with the GPS, eating fast food, talking on the phone, or just being too damn tired. It’s impolitic to say it, but we allow a whole lot of impairment on the roads, and I think a frequent toker who’s built up a tolerance falls well within that allowance, because…
- When I get a prescription for Marinol, that Schedule III 100% potent synthetic THC with no CBD to moderate the psychoactivity, it comes in a bottle with a warning (like many impairing prescription drugs) that reads “You should not drive or operate machinery until you know how MARINOL affects you.” I guess once you’ve figured out your high, drive all you like! Just as long as it is 100% synthetic THC in Marinol and not 15% natural THC in a joint.
- I guess we brought it on ourselves asking to “regulate it like alcohol,” but CBS exhibits journalistic malpractice making the comparison “like alcohol, pot can have dangerous consequences” as if both share equal risk potential. Drunks get belligerent and underestimate their great impairment; stoners get mellow and overestimate their mild impairment. In one recent study, it was shown that drinking drivers have a 13.64:1 odds risk of fatal accident compared to 1.81:1 for drivers with marijuana in their system.
Bonus: You’ve got to love CBS’ fact checkers letting this get through: “But marijuana is not new to Colorado. Residents have been using it medicinally for four years” (it’s been over 13 years). Somebody ought to ask CBS what their reporter has been smoking; after all, we understand “There are numerous strands of cannabis that can produce different highs…”