During the Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee hearing held on Thursday February 26th, 2014, on HB350 the Cannabis Compassion Act, Representative Robert Benvenuti held up a study and, waving it around like McCarthy saying he has the list of Commies right here, proceeded to claim that, “traffic fatalities in Colorado, after passage of the medical marijuana law, increased 114%.”
The study can be accessed here thru an article in Forbes magazine which reviewed the study-- http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobsullum/2014/02/17/if-medical-marijuana-laws-cause-a-surge-in-drugged-driving-deaths-why-are-fatalities-falling/
Representative Benvenuti failed to mention that the study he cites did not determine whether or not marijuana was the cause of the accidents, only that marijuana was present in toxicology tests. Given that the metabolites in marijuana are present as much as 3 weeks after use, the level of metabolites has no correlation to a person’s level of impairment. Dr. Guohua Li one of the authors of the study was quoted in the Denver Post as saying, “The most likely explanation, (for the increased presence of marijuana), is that the use of marijuana in the general driver population has been increasing, which may reflect increased use in the general population.” Li said the Federal data cannot show whether the drivers were impaired by marijuana at the time of the crash; a positive test may indicate use as long as several days prior, and this study also did not look at whether the drivers were at fault in the crash.
Most of the reliable and respected studies done on the issue of marijuana and driving can be found here-- http://norml.org/library/item/marijuana-and-driving-a-review-of-the-scientific-evidence
Overall these studies have shown drivers who use marijuana get into accidents at the same rate as drivers who do no drugs or alcohol. In truth the best test for marijuana impairment is the old 'walk the line' test. If there really was an increase in traffic fatalities of the magnitude claimed by Representative Benvenuti it would have been top headlines in papers across the nation.
Certainly as we move from propaganda, suppression and enforcement to a scientific and realistic approach to marijuana use we must be careful. Representative Benvenuti is calling for research. There is plenty of research, just none approved by the Federal Government! For example, a Food and Drug Administration approved protocol for a study of marijuana for symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in US Veterans has been on hold for over 3 months waiting for the US Public Health Service to sell researchers the Government approved marijuana for the study. In the 40 plus years since enactment of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act the US Public Health Service has never provided the marijuana for any research and so far not for this Study either. No ‘approved’ research, thus allowing the Government to claim they can’t legalize or reschedule marijuana because there is no Government approved research showing marijuana is safe or has any medical value! Actually there is plenty of evidence, some of it gold standard research, showing the safety and efficacy of marijuana, just none supporting the ridiculous claims of the Government.
At present, 20 States and the District of Columbia have found this medicine safe for their citizens to use. Two have legalized it for recreational use. There is nothing to suggest it will not be safe for our citizens. If we combine Senator Denton’s bill with Representative Marzian’s HB350, then Representative Benvenuti will get his research, and the citizens who need this medicine now will get their medicine. A win-win for all!
Please support and pass a reasonable and viable medical marijuana bill this session. Kentucky’s sick and disabled citizens are counting on you!