Pubdate: Sun, 12 Sep 1999
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 1999 - The Gazette Newspapers
Author: Terry Phelan


Clif Tygert's contention (Aug. 27 letter) that pot is hardly harmless
because he knows of three deaths - two by auto accident and one by suicide
- - caused by it, deserves some scrutiny before being accepted as fact.

Studies conducted under the auspices of the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) suggests that fatal accidents resulting solely from
cannabis consumption occur rarely, if ever. One study of 1,882 drivers
killed in crashes in 1990-91 found alcohol in more than half of the cases,
but cannabis traces in just 6.7 percent - the majority of whom also had
intoxicating levels of alcohol in their systems at the time of the crash.

When the data were analyzed, cannabis consumers actually showed a lower
likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash than that of a drug-free
control group, though the difference was not judged to be statistically
significant. A related NHTSA-sponsored study of driving performance under
the influence of marijuana, conducted in the Netherlands, found that "that
alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC (marijuana's active
ingredient) encourages greater caution, at least in experiments. Another
way THC seems to differ qualitatively from many other drugs is that users
seem better able to compensate for its adverse effects while driving under
the influence."

As for the suicide example, pot smokers do sometimes commit suicide, just
as non-pot smokers do, but it is not so easy to pin the blame on pot. If
Mr. Tygert is trying to claim that the use of marijuana resulted in a
suicidal mental state, his claim is tenuous indeed.

One could just as easily make the claim that persons commit suicide because
they are unhappy living in a police state that brands them as criminals
simply for acting on the belief that they own their own bodies and have the
right to decide what goes into them.

And, on the other side of the coin, no one knows how many suicides
marijuana may actually have prevented, as would be the case whenever a
suicidally depressed person smoked a joint to elevate their mood and then
decided not to carry out theself-destructive actions they had planned.

So, while I would wish to offer my condolences to Mr. Tygert over the three
lives that have been lost, I would also wish to encourage those who read
his letter to adopt an "innocent until proven guilty" attitude toward the
"murderer" that he has blamed.


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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart