AAA: Driving While High Not Criminal

AAA: Driving While High Not Criminal

While drunk driving didn’t begin to received widespread attention until the 1970s, measures to keep intoxicated individuals from getting behind the wheel have been on books for over a century.

“Essentially, the study showed that law enforcement’s current approach to detecting and prosecuting high drivers, is according, to AAA president and CEO Marshall Doney, ‘flawed and not supported by scientific research.'”

New Jersey, in 1906, was the first in the United States to adopt a drunk driving law, and New York and California passed similar legislation in 1910. Today, the threshold for intoxication is .08 across the country. But in the early days of enforcement, there was no standard, and what constituted impairment was left up to the officer on the scene.

And today, driving while high is considered the same as driving drunk.

Given the success of recent legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington—along with the likelihood of California’s going green in November—authorities across the country are currently trying to figure out how to measure how much THC makes drivers impaired.

And unsurprisingly, they’re getting it wrong.

As the Associated Press reported on Tuesday, a study by the American Automobile Association that found there’s no marijuana blood test equivalent to the one currently used to detect alcohol. As the AP described:

“There’s no science that shows drivers become impaired at a specific level of THC in the blood. A lot depends upon the individual. Drivers with relatively high levels of THC in their systems might not be impaired, especially if they are regular users, while others with relatively low levels may be unsafe behind the wheel.”

Essentially, the study showed that law enforcement’s current approach to detecting and prosecuting high drivers, is according, to AAA president and CEO Marshall Doney, “flawed and not supported by scientific research.” And given that smoking marijuana makes drivers less inclined to cause a crash than using a hands-free phone, the group suggested driving while high should just warrant a traffic ticket, and not be a criminal offense.

It’s an interesting argument, to say the least. But given the government has never really considered science in regard to its marijuana policy, what it will ultimately mean remains to be seen. We’ll keep you posted.

[ via the Associated Press, image via Paramount Pictures ]

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