Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jan 2002
Source: Ladysmith-Chemanius Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Authors: Matthew M. Elrod , Chuck Beyer, Adam Scriven
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Hotbox Hot Air


RCMP Const. Brian Nightingale is quite mistaken concerning cannabis 
and driving ("Hotboxing reaching new highs", Jan. 22).

"Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol usually drive slowly 
to avoid detection ... stoned drivers are more aggressive than 
drunkdrivers." Nonsense. Several studies have shown that alcohol 
makes drivers more reckless while cannabis makes them more cautious. 
Cannabis is less impairing than alcohol, both qualitatively and 

While it is true that alcohol and cannabis are economic substitutes 
with cross-price elasticities the shift from alcohol to cannabis is, 
on balance, a life-saver. Where cannabis use goes up, alcohol use 
goes down, resulting in a net decrease in alcohol- and other 
drug-related motor vehicle accidents and emergency room admissions.

Nightingale is also mistaken about the increasing potency of cannabis.

The Potency Monitoring Project (PMP) at the University of Mississippi 
has been measuring THC content for over 20 years. During this time 
potency averages have fluctuated between two and 3.5 per cent, with 
no consistent upward or downward trend.

The RCMP claim the average potency of cannabis seized in Canada today 
is six per cent, up two to three per cent from two decades ago.

They have stumbled across exceptionally potent batches containing as 
much as 25 per cent, but not the 39 per cent Nightingale claims.

Very strong forms of cannabis (e.g., hashish) have been available 
since the dawn of recorded history.

Finally, I know of no one who has recommended that people be allowed 
to drive while impaired on anything. If cannabis laws were changed, 
there would be no change regarding operating motor vehicles while one 
is intoxicated on cannabis or any other drug, licit or illicit, and 
we do not need to prohibit impairing substances, such as cough syrup, 
to enforce these laws.

Matthew M. Elrod

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Studies Rebut 'Expert' Advise


Since North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Const. Brian Nightingale has 
described himself as an expert on the effects of marijuana and 
driving ("Hotboxing reaching new highs", Jan. 22) perhaps he could 
provide us with some scientific studies to prove has assertions. I 
don't think he will find any. There have however been very recent 
studies conducted in Australia, by the University of Adelaide's 
pharmacology department and Transport SA, which found that cannabis 
was the only drug tested that decreased the relative risk of having 
an accident. If that that is not enough for Const. Brian Nightingale, 
he should look to the recent studies which have embarrassed the 
British government.

The British Transport Research Laboratory, like Const. Brian 
Nightingale began with preconceptions built primarily around the 
legal status of this plant, reasoning that if it is illegal it must 
be as intoxicating as alcohol.

What they found instead was that amongst regular smokers the 
mellowing effects of cannabis made drivers more cautious and so less 
likely to drive dangerously, and that they are less likely to cause 
road accidents than drunk drivers or even drug-free drivers.

The fact is that, notwithstanding marijuana's legal status, these 
studies have found that being under the influence of marijuana while 
driving is less dangerous than driving while fatigued.

Const. Brian Nightingale's judgment is impaired by the fact that part 
of his job is to persecute people who use cannabis. If he ever 
considered the facts I don't think he could live with his conscience, 
at least I hope not.

Chuck Beyer

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More Pot Lies


This is in response to your article ("Hotboxing reaching new highs", Jan. 22).

RCMP Const. Brian Nightingale was telling a blatant lie when he said, 
"Stoned drivers are more aggressive than drunk drivers," and "With 
marijuana everything speeds up."

According to the largest study ever undertaken in history about the 
effects of cannabis on driving:

"A massive 1998 study by the University of Adelaide and Transport 
South Australia analyzed blood samples from 2,500 accidents, and 
found that drivers with cannabis in their system were actually 
slightly less likely to cause accidents than those without."

Even three separate studies done in the good-old USA (and reported 
again in Cannabis Culture Magazine, "Stoned Drivers are Safer 
Drivers") found:

"A 1983 study by the US National Highway Transportation Safety 
Administration (NHTSA) used stoned drivers on simulators, and 
concluded that the only statistically significant effect associated 
with marijuana use was slower driving."

"A comprehensive 1992 study by the NHTSA found that marijuana is 
rarely involved in driving accidents, except when combined with 
alcohol. It concluded that 'the THC-only drivers had an [accident] 
responsibility rate below that of the drug free drivers' While the 
difference was not statistically significant, there was no indication 
that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes.' This study was 
buried for six years and not released until 1998."

"Another NHTSA study performed in 1993 dosed Dutch drivers with THC 
and tested them on real Dutch roads. It concluded that 'THC's adverse 
effects on driving performance appear relatively small.'"

On top of all this, one should realize too that "[A] British study 
also found that tiredness caused 10 per cent of all fatal accidents, 
compared with 6 per cent for alcohol."

If these people actually cared about stopping road fatalities, they'd 
stop demonizing cannabis like so much 'Reefer Madness', and start 
actually focusing on the real problems.

Adam Scriven
Brighton, Ontario

Editor's note: the above letter writers each cited reference material 
too lengthy for publication.
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MAP posted-by: Josh