Prop 19 Raises Questions About Pot-Smoking Drivers

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Can people who smoke marijuana still drive safely? If pot is legalized this November, that question will have to be asked and answered in California.

Call it what you want: cruising on cannabis. Stoned steering. Safety experts say the bottom line is it remains to be seen whether there is a safe amount of pot a driver can smoke and still be safe on the road.

Pot advocate and Proposition 19 backer Jeff Jones thinks it is, in fact, possible for people to smoke pot and still be safe drivers.

“Cannabis is safer than alcohol,” he declared. “All the driving statistics show that when you use cannabis, you get slower and you get more calculated in what you do.”

If Proposition 19 passes, various marijuana-related activities will be legalized, and that has law enforcement officials wary about the potential impact on drivers throughout the state.

“Law enforcement doesn’t put a lot of resources into people possessing less than an ounce of marijuana unless they’re driving under the influence, which would increase if this passes. Or, if they’re creating other problems, which would happen if this passes,” warned Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete Dunbar, who is against the proposition.

California’s blood alcohol limit is .08, which means it is possible for a driver to have a drink and still get behind the wheel of a car. However, there’s no such limit proposed for marijuana. Furthermore, there’s no way to determine how high a driver may be.

“There is no test like there’s a breathalyzer type test,” pointed out former Sutter County Sheriff Nate Bradley.

Blood tests can detect marijuana in your system for up to 30 days, but it’s not the type of test that can be performed during a traffic stop.

“People always say, well how do you determine what is under the influence of marijuana or not? And we always look, just like with alcohol and any other type of drug, there’s going to be physical circumstances that we look and it’s going to correspond to how they do on a physical sobriety test,” explained California Highway Patrol Officer Shawn Chase, who added that he has made plenty of arrests for people driving under the influence of marijuana, based on his observation.

Could a pot breathalyzer be far off? Perhaps not, if Proposition 19 passes.

“Once there’s a reason for it, it’ll be here,” said Oakland City Attorney John Russo. “There will be a demand for that, once that happens.”

The entire marijuana detection industry is likely to explode if Proposition 19 passes. State lawmakers, meanwhile, will have to determine some kind of legal marijuana limit, which opponents like Chief Dunbar said doesn’t exist behind the wheel.

“Marijuana is a mind-altering drug. Problems will go up. Right now we have scarce resources as it is in public safety,” he warned. “Now’s not the time for that.”

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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  • Big G

    As a lifetime smoker, the answer is no. It is a recereation & that affects your mindset, good or bad, not for me to decide. but it does alter you. I feel that you be accountable for all of your actions. Driving while high or drunk or on prescribed medication is never a good thing. If more poeple held themselves accountable for there actions, we wouldn’t have to ask these dumb questions.

  • Phrunes

    I think that Jeff Jones has been smoking too much of what he is attempting to legalize. “Pot smokers drive slower”?! Gimme a break Jeff! That assertion just means that they (the drug abuser) are impaired and thusly their reaction times are adversely affected.

    This is the same drivel that the drug abusers of this state have been trying to dupe the law abiders with for the past 30 years.

    The facts are these:
    Fact #1: Pot is still illegal, and is considered a schedule 1 narcotic…same as meth and coke. Like it or not, that’s a fact.

    Fact #2: Most pot smokers in this state are simply drug abusers; NOT the poor medical patient looking for some relief from the terrible side effects of a legitimate disease.

    Fact #3: Pot impairs drivers as much or as little as alcohol does. One just happens to be legal, and the other aint. Contrary to the inflated egos of the weed smokin’ crowd: Just because you live in California does not mean that you don’t get as high, or that you suddenly become a responsible driver when you are high on pot instead of alcohol.

    Fact #4: You can put lipstick on a pig, and it’s still a pig…the toker’s in this state have been trying (with some success on the backs of sick people) in this state to legalize something by minimizing it’s negative affects.

    A question for “Mr. Jones”: Jeff, why not go in for some delicate brain surgery after your Doctor smoked a bowl just before entering the operating room? Make’s you feel like he’s gonna’ “be more careful” huh?

    Fact #5: I for one, am tired of the poor old law breaker squawking till they get their way in this state. In light of that fact, the VERY same drugger’s are the first in line to complain about the effect of second hand cigarette smoke on their fragile beings. Geez! Talk about hypocritical.

    Wake up California, POT IS A DRUG THAT CAUSES YOU TO GET “HIGH” and has no place behind the wheel! If so, let’s legalize drinking behind the wheel again while were at it.

    – Sick and tired of the whiners.

  • RyDog

    Anybody that wants to smoke marijuana already does it.. I doubt the new law will increase the amount of smokers that drive. This law needs to pass in order to kill the black market and all the gangs and crime associated with that.

  • tn

    Like any other drug, abuse will have its repercussions. Good or bad, MJ use will escalate and driving accidents will happen. Accidents happen already, whether they’re on a cell phone, intoxicated, inebriated, or just being plain stupid. The nay-sayers will blame drugs. The addicted user (or their lawyer) will claim it’s someone else’s fault. The innocent victims (and their lawyer) will blame the system, police, driver, driver’s spouse, car manufacturer, cop who wrote the investigation notes, city the incident occurred and the seller of the herb. Right or wrong, it’s coming. Eventually, what we will need is a “toke-analyzer.”

  • Kuto Lusa

    I don’t get it. Any kind of smoking is hazardous to one’s health. Who will pay for the emphysema, lung diseases, cancer that will likely explode?

    Another thing, what will stop the big tobacco company from getting into the action. At least we have someone to sue.

    • Bear

      Google Dr. Donald Tashkin and listen to his interview. What you learn will amaze you. Cannabis smoke does not cause cancer.

  • Moe Brown

    I don’t smoke anymore, but I remember one time a few years back when I did and drove, I HAD to pull over because I could not focus on driving. Better safe than sorry

  • Baby Boomer

    I haven’t smoked in years, but when I did, it did impair my driving.

  • Bear

    The laws regarding this issue will not change. Debate over.

  • mattymatt

    People who take Prozac are allowed to drive. Is this significantly different?

  • Anonymous

    I am sick and tired of your bitching. The people have the power to make the choices as we all know. Well why aren’t rew making our own choices? just becausea slimy bacon such as Chief of Polic Dunbar says no, why should you?

    I’ve been smoking pot for 6 years and still going. It’s my coffee in the morning, it’s my motivation. I feel like I can take on the world when I smoke. I’m unstopable.
    I am all for Proposition 19. This will not only make life easier for many people, but it was also help rebuilding our declining economy. I mean what else is gonna help? Obama’s stimulas checks? a new diet program for mice? Hell no! the War isn’t helping, neither is our Education standards.

    So what if you can’t drive, learn to smoke and find a ride.
    Many of my friends and myself smoke weed all day everyday
    and we still manage to maintian a upstanding american life.

    Of course seeing as how you’re all probably lousy democrats and republicans you all probably don’t even acknowledge the positives in this situation.

    Learn to think for yourself and maybe this country will finally be the Great America we want it to be.

  • Prop 19 Raises Questions About Pot-Smoking Drivers | Medical Marijuana Review

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