Will Legalizing Marijuana Lead To More Accidents In the US?

MarijuanaAh marijuana…or weed, or ganja whatever you wish to call it. It has divided opinions all over the world, and especially in our country. Some cultures extol its virtues, others deride it, still others are indifferent or on the fence. It is a hot topic though, wherever you go. In pop culture too, from rappers to film stars, and even The Simpsons and South Park, everyone has an opinion on that little green plant and aren’t afraid to share it.

If you’re part of the camp that occasionally takes a toke on a fatty, you’ll be pleased to hear that not one, but two states in America – Colorado and Washington have legalized the used of weed for recreation. Medical marijuana was allowed across many states already, and even though it is listed as a federal criminal offense, our legislation allows states to individually decriminalize it.

I for one am quite amiable about this move because whether you like weed or not, and partake in its usage or not, it’s just undemocratic and un-American for the government to decide how the people who comprise its populace should live their lives. Just look at the hippy culture movement: good times, (great music!) and a lot of peace and love.

There are a few drawbacks though, the biggest one is that having a joint or two can impair your judgment and dull the reflexes. The context of this is important, because legalizing weed brings up a big question, will drivers who are high cause more accidents?

How smoking up can effect accidents

  • Slower reflexes. As mentioned just above, weed does tend to make you react slower, the degree of which varies from person to person and how much of it you consume, but it is bad. This means you might not be able to instinctively pull off a sharp maneuver to avoid an accident in a situation like that if you’re high, this could lead to more accidents.
  • Downers. A downer is basically stoner slang for a negative ‘psychological outlay’ (a.k.a trip). So if you’ve consumed cannabis, you could potentially go into depression. This is dangerous because if a negative trip hits when you’re driving, it could prompt you to not take action in case of an emergency situation or even court danger.
  • Hallucinations. Another common side effect of smoking pot is hallucinations. You think weirdly, and see things differently, which is great to get the creative juices flowing, not so much when behind the wheel. You might interpret certain objects as something else, like the on rushing headlights of a car might, when high, look like fairy lights, an onrushing mythical creature or a flying leprechaun. Farfetched, I know but still within the realms of possibility, and that’s the scary part. You just can’t predict how you might react, in that state, to those circumstances.
  • Anxiety and Paranoia. A regular occurrence when smoking up, especially for beginners is paranoia. You might get an unnatural fear of the red light maybe, or you might think the headlights in your rear view mirror are dangerous people out to get you, and take ‘evasive’ action that could lead to a tricky and less that desirable situation. Another, less extreme facet is anxiety, but driving while anxious is dangerous too. You could react in a knee-jerk fashion to a slightly out of the ordinary, but not overtly dangerous occurrence. An example is spotting an animal by the roadside and swerving to avoid hitting it which throws all the traffic on the road into havoc.
  • Short term memory loss. In isolation, this doesn’t seem like too much of a bother, but what if you forget where you’re going to or something along those lines. This could, in turn, speed up the onset of the aforementioned anxiety attacks and paranoia, not a happy situation at all.

All this is compelling in terms of why marijuana consumption makes driving more hazardous, but then again, there are a lot of people who cite a lot of studies that claim marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and we all know that despite the widespread dangers of drinking and driving, people do it all the time, and alcohol still isn’t banned. This brings me to my original assertion that I don’t have a problem with marijuana smoking, only driving after smoking. So don’t take this as an attack on weed smokers or anything like that. To conclude, I think it will be interesting to see how big insurance firms approach this topic in Washington and Colorado. Will a cannabis enthusiast applying for, say, The Hartford’s AARP be treated differently from a non-smoker in terms of premium costs? If so, then by how much? And should he be? These are pertinent questions, the answers to which will clear up a lot of the smoke (pun intended) around this issue.



About the author: Elvis Donnelly, a father of two who works from home. I am a voracious reader and like to keep abreast of current affairs on personal finance, technology and innovation. In my spare time, I love taking on home improvement projects and consider myself a closet chef. 


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