The Issue the Media Overlooks about Stoned Driving

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In general, most people will readily recognize that driving under the influence of a controlled substance with mind-altering effects will impact their ability to drive. However, acknowledging that potential impairment does not prevent people from getting behind the wheel after they had a couple of glasses of wine or down two muscle relaxants.

Given that people choose to drive even while impaired by truly dangerous compounds, it’s hardly a surprise that quite a few people worry about stoned driving as a risk on the roads, especially after states began to legalize recreational cannabis use. However, the laws in all of the various states with legalization or medical cannabis still prohibit impaired-driving. Some states have even gone so far as to set nanogram limits for cannabinoids in people’s bodies, but such limits are widely considered arbitrary and ineffective for actually proving impairment.

Much like any compound with medical effects on the human body, cannabis is something that your body acclimates to, meaning you will require a higher dose over time as you develop a tolerance for the various cannabinoids. In other words, the amount of THC in your system is hardly an indicator of impairment.

Still, it isn’t the difficulty of establishing an impairment level that often gets ignored by the mainstream media but rather the fact that evidence seems to indicate that cannabis alone isn’t that dangerous to drivers. Instead, it is the penchant of some people to ingest cannabis at the same time that they ingest other substances that leads to many so-called stoned crashes.

Cannabis alone may not drastically increase your risk of a crash, but cannabis and alcohol together exacerbate each other’s effect on the human body. Their synergy with one another means that you can be under the legal limit for both alcohol and THC and substantially more unsafe than you would be if you had just consumed one or the other. Additionally, people will also mix cannabis with pain pills or a wide range of other drugs before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.

All too often recently, news reporters trying to evoke the scourge of stoned driving will focus on the fact that a person who caused a crash had cannabis in their system and minimize the presence of alcohol and a cocktail of other drugs. They create the perception that cannabis alone lead to the car wreck, instead of the questionable decision to mix multiple mind-altering substances before driving.

While it is certainly true that people need to be making responsible decisions and not just getting behind the wheel if they are actually impaired, it’s also important for us as a society to acknowledge that biased reporting on issues can impact policy and therefore negatively impact society.

Carefully read through any article discussing so-called stoned driving crashes to verify whether other substances were present in the accused’s bloodstream at the time of the collision. With very few exceptions, you will find that it is the combination of cannabis and alcohol or cannabis and other drugs that led to the crash, not cannabis use alone. In fact, the mention of other drugs and alcohol may only be a single sentence, or an author may omit mention of the fact entirely. Checking the sources used by a journalist can be an important way to determine what they included, and more importantly, what they left out of their coverage of a story.

For previous articles about the media, click here.