Pubdate: Thu, 31 Mar 2016
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2016 Rutland Herald
Author: Julia Purdy
Note: Julia Purdy is a resident of Rutland Town.


In the Great Marijuana Fight, facts are portrayed as fiction and vice 
versa. Even the power of logic is challenged. The letter writer 
("Fiction and facts on marijuana," March 25) asserts that as "people 
20-29 years" opt for marijuana over alcohol, this will result in 
fewer traffic accidents, "since alcohol is the main factor in these 
crashes. Furthermore, traffic accidents have fallen 9 percent in the 
states that have legalized marijuana." He cites the Department of 
Economics at University of Colorado.

It may be true that "traffic accidents" have declined, but a general 
decrease in traffic fatalities or crashes in legal states cannot be 
attributed to legalization of marijuana. For decades anti-drinking 
campaigns from the federal level on down have warned against drinking 
while driving. Crashes in general may be down, but the percentage of 
fatal crashes due to marijuana use appears to be higher than ever.

In Vermont alone, the Agency of Transportation reported 42 fatal 
highway crashes resulting in 44 fatalities between January 1, 2014 
and the end of November 2014. Autopsies of the drivers revealed that 
only four of those fatal crashes involved alcohol. Ten of the 
fatalities were caused by stoned driving. Of those 10, two drivers 
had been using cannabis in conjunction with alcohol. Cannabis was 
also found in the systems of the other eight deceased drivers. Of 
those eight, three showed cannabis along with other drugs. (Source: 
Vermont Agency of Transportation.)

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which has 
been tracking legalization in Colorado since 2011, has released its 
January 2016 report, an update of its three-volume publication, "The 
Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact." This is available 
to the public in very readable form at

Volume 2 of this report (August 2014) supports the Vermont experience 
mentioned above. It found that while traffic fatalities overall in 
Colorado decreased 14.8 percent, from 2007 to 2012 (the year of 
legalization), during the same five years in Colorado, traffic 
fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana had 
more than doubled, from 7.04 percent to 16.53 percent.

Volume 2 also shows that throughout 2014, 874 citations were issued 
for driving under the influence of drugs, with 674 involving 
marijuana in combination with alcohol or other drugs, and of that 
number, 354 for marijuana only, according to the Colorado State 
Patrol DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) program, initiated 
in that same year.

These are not opinions or fiction. If folks are going to search 
beyond the splashy headlines for consistent facts, gathered 
scientifically over time, they can find them at

As for users opting for marijuana over alcohol, here is what the RAND 
Report, commissioned by Gov. Peter Shumlin, had to say:

"Alas, that story of increased marijuana use being a substitute for 
alcohol use is not the only possibility. ... For example, current 
marijuana users are five times as likely as nonusers to meet DSM-IV 
criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence . ...; that is, one in four 
current marijuana users is a problem drinker (calculated using 2012 
National Survey on Drug Use and Health data using the Substance Abuse 
and Mental Health Services Administration online tool). ... Indeed, 
simultaneous use is common. ... Doubling of marijuana use would not 
lead to even a halving of all drinkers, because there are nearly 10 
times more drinkers than people who use marijuana."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom