Continuing the discussion about the pros and cons of passing Proposition 64 which would legalize the use of recreational marijuana, despite the all benefits I explained in my last post, many opponents of Prop 64 make a strong case as to why voters should vote “no” on election day. One of the main arguments against Prop 64 is the fact that legalization would increase the amount of irresponsible smokers driving under the influence, therefore increasing the potential danger drivers face on the road.
One of the problems with recreational marijuana is that, unlike alcohol which stays in your system for only a couple hours, marijuana can be found in your body days after being consumed, making it difficult to effectively regulate and test if someone is high while behind the wheel. There are currently two main methods to test for marijuana consumption that are often used for mandatory drug tests as part of job applications, urine tests and oral cotton swabbing; however both prove to be ineffective for DUI testing.
The process of testing urine samples can take upwards of a couple days and would be useless for on the spot DUI testing. As for oral cotton swabbing, Dale Gieringer, director of the California of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, states, “There’s no evidence that oral swab testing results have any correlation to impaired driving,” meaning the test would only identify if drivers had marijuana in their system, not proving if the driver was actually high at the moment they were tested.
With very little time to find an answer to effectively regulate high driving, law enforcement fears that passing Prop 64 before finding the solution would fill the highways with dangerous amounts of irresponsible drugged drivers. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report found that there was already a “22% increase in drugged driving arrests between 2007 and 2014,” a statistic made prior to Prop 64 being written. With the legalization of marijuana, drugged driving arrests will inevitably grow and become worse and worse.
Not only does legalization bring more drugged drivers onto roads, but legalization may also increase substance abuse among the youth. In my previous post I stated that the statistics in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, did not show any significant increase of marijuana consumption by the youth after legalization; however, what those statistics fail to show is that the vast majority of of illegal underage drug abuse goes undetected with or without legalization. In fact, according to Kieran Nicholson, an author for the Denver Post, “The survey, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), shows Colorado leads all states in regular marijuana use among youth, according to a Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) media release,” arguing that over the years once marijuana is legalized, legalization can only influence the youth, not bring it down.
One factor of creating a new marijuana industry that would contribute to more underage substance abuse would be the increase of exposure due to advertisements. According to Brooke Edwards, staff writer for the Orange County Register, the campaign supporting Prop 64 has spent, “$11.3 million, per the latest report filed Sept. 29 (2016), with $6.5 million spent on TV and radio ads now airing,” compared to the the “No on 64” campaign which has only “raised more than $1 million and spent nearly half of it, including $50,000 on TV ads.” With that much money being invested into just getting Prop 64 passed, one can imagine the amount of money that will be spent on advertisements after legalization. With all these potential ads it would not be possible for the youth to avoid the constant exposure of marijuana consumption. The young impressionable minds would be more likely to follow what they see and hear on TV or the radio and begin consuming the substance themselves.
If Prop 64 were to pass in California, the state would only see in an increase in the number of marijuana consumers, and would therefore see an increase in the amount of high drivers and youth abusers as well. The supporters who I addressed in my previous post may be blinded by dollar signs that could come from the predicted billion-dollar industry and not see the potential harm and dangerous future that may come about if Prop 64 were to pass.