Pubdate: Thu, 10 Oct 2002
Source: Carillon, The (CN MB)
Copyright: 2002 The Carillon
Author: Matthew M. Elrod


Dear Sir:

Letter writer Bill Giesbrecht's opinion that "people having too much
marijuana would have the same problem driving as those drinking alcohol and
driving," is incorrect. ('Vice can do a lot of harm,' Carillon, Oct. 3).

Cognizant of societal fears and misconceptions about the effect of cannabis
on driving, the Senate committee dedicated an entire chapter to the subject.
In a nutshell, "Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect
on the skills involved in automobile driving. Cannabis leads to a more
cautious style of driving. [Cannabis does have] a negative impact on
decision time and trajectory [however] this in itself does not mean that
drivers under the influence of cannabis represent a traffic safety risk."

Cannabis and alcohol are economic substitutes with cross-price elasticities.
When cannabis use goes up, alcohol use goes down, resulting in a net
decrease in drug-related traffic accidents. Economists Frank Chaloupka and
Adit Laixuthai, for example, estimate that cannabis decriminalization would
reduce youth traffic fatalities by 5.5 percent, youth drinking rates by
eight percent and binge drinking rates by five percent. Other evidence
suggests we would see similar declines in emergency room drug and alcohol
mentions (Model, 1993) and crime (Benson, 1992).

Though it is true that we lack a breathalyzer for cannabis, the Senate
committee noted that police officers trained as drug recognition experts can
identify drivers under the influence of cannabis over 90 per cent of the
time. Trained officers can also detect impairment from legal drugs known to
impair driving ability such as cough syrup and benzodiazepines.

Matthew M. Elrod
Victoria, B.C.
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