Not only drunk driving but drugged driving is also on the rise in the United States (US). As the US relax their marijuana laws, cases of Americans driving while being high on weed are reporting frequently. A study conducted by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) data from 1999 to 2010 showed 24.8 per cent of the total 23,591 drivers who were killed in the first hour of the road accidents were under the influence of drugs, while 39.7 per cent were on alcohol. During these 10 years, non-alcohol drug-related accidents grew from 16.6 per cent to 28.3 per cent. The cases involving marijuana grew from 4.2 per cent to 12.2 per cent. While for alcohol men outnumbered women, marijuana usage was equal in both men and women.
Experts call for an understanding of controlled substances like marijuana, which is available easily across the US. In this article, we shall discuss why drugged driving is on the rise in the United States?
Let’s get started!
Marijuana presence in the world
In the 1970s, marijuana was dubbed as a “killer” drug. This was the time when the US government classified it as a Schedule 1 drug. As a result, it placed cannabis along with drugs of abuse like heroin and cocaine. This not only led to a ban on marijuana but also a full stop on its research. Those researching the area were considered no less than criminals. Previously in 1961, the UN had also placed marijuana as the Schedule IV drug. This meant strict measures were followed in its handling. Neither recreational nor medical activities were allowed around marijuana. It was banned by most countries, barring a few.
However, as time changed, the status of marijuana also kept changing. As of today, 34 states in the United States have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational uses, four of which were added in 2020 alone. Canada and Uruguay are the two countries where marijuana has been completely legalized. Other countries like Portugal, Israel, and The Netherlands have also progressed a lot in bringing marijuana into the mainstream. The marijuana market is growing in size by the day. A new report by Grand View Research, Inc, says the legal marijuana market may reach $73.6 billion by 2027. The industry comprises everything from beauty products to health supplements to products related to mental health.
The marijuana trend
Smoking marijuana while driving or drugged driving now seems like a trend on the rise in the United States. A survey conducted by the National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug use by drivers by the NHTSA found one in eight weekend and nighttime drivers tested positive for illicit drugs in 2007. One among six high school seniors who responded to the 2010 monitoring the Future Study said they drive while smoking marijuana.
Another survey, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2012 concluded that 10.3 million people who were 12-year-old or older had driven under the influence of illegal drugs. The number for alcohol was way higher at 29.1 million people. All these findings point towards the growing trend of illicit drugs used in the US. The younger population is especially attracted towards them and many times end up losing their licence or facing a jail term. Marijuana consumption also forms a big part of this trend. Marijuana has a THC content that’s responsible for causing high.
Legal status of marijuana
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has listed marijuana in Schedule 1, which is the same category as heroin, a harmful drug. The categorisation of marijuana in schedule 1 has outraged many people but under the current category, it has a high potential for abuse. The drug is believed to have no “accepted medical use” as the US government believes it’s not safe. However, we all know this categorisation does not hold ground. There are millions of people who use marijuana despite the ban in many countries, and they swear by its medicinal benefits. The strict scheduling of marijuana lets the DEA implement rules more effectively and limit its supply. That’s the reason research on marijuana has not been able to move with a fast speed. Experts suggest marijuana should be out of Schedule 1 as no severe potential abuse cases have been reported so far.
Reasons for drugged driving
A big reason for the increase in incidents of drugged driving is the change in its legal status. As more and more states are accepting marijuana for various purposes, people are also changing their perception towards it. You can buy marijuana anywhere these days. Shop online, visit over-the-counter shops or drug stores — mariajuana-based products can be found everywhere in states where it’s legal. Products based on Marijuana-based cannabinoids are flooding the market. Though a majority of people who buy marijuana based products are benefitting from its medicinal properties, some people end up getting addicted to it. THC is a cannabinoid found in marijuana that has been linked to poor driving performance as it alters the mind’s cognitive skills. As you drive under the influence of marijuana, your response time gets delayed and leads to slow driving. Many times, you end up making a mistake that cause the road accident.
What is the solution?
Not all marijuana users are aware of its harmful effects and while driving they don’t even realise it’s going to influence their driving skills. Only more education and sensitisation about marijuana and its harmful impacts can protect people from driving while smoking weed. Most people only emphasize on side-effects of drinking alcohol, though marijuana is also the equal culprit. Weed use should be restricted to home use only. People should consume weed in the comfort of their homes, where even if something wrong happens, they have someone to take care of themselves. Also, it saves one from legal trouble. Rules on driving under the influence of drugs are pretty harsh in the US and it’s your responsibility to follow them.