Government agents, agencies, lobbyists and the mainstream media all resort to fearmongering in order to push new destructive marijuana DUI laws, ignoring reason and scientific information alike.
Twice in the past month I have called out the misinformation and lies perpetrated by drug wars profiteers with assistance from mainstream media. I would now like to add to this list of liars Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney Daniel Conley, who recently croaked out the following alarmist falsehood:
“Cases like this one speak to the urgency with which lawmakers should address marijuana-impaired driving. It’s a proven fact that driving under the influence of marijuana is every bit as dangerous as it is for alcohol, but unlike alcohol, we don’t yet have a way to quantify a driver’s impairment from marijuana.”
Proven fact, eh?
First of all, the term proof does not even apply here. It is only relevant when discussing axioms. Scientific knowledge works just the opposite, rather than finding the final answer, it seeks to always replace models with better ones.
“For each of 2,500 injured drivers presenting to a hospital, a blood sample was collected for later analysis. There was a clear relationship between alcohol and culpability. … In contrast, there was no significant increase in culpability for cannabinoids alone. While a relatively large number of injured drivers tested positive for cannabinoids, culpability rates were no higher than those for the drug free group. This is consistent with other findings.”
… Based on alcohol and drug testing of the full range of patients … alcohol is clearly the major drug associated with serious crashes and greater injury. Patients testing positive for illicit drugs (marijuana, opiates, and cocaine), in the absence of alcohol, were in crashes very similar to those of patients with neither alcohol nor drugs. When other relevant variables were considered, these drugs were not associated with more severe crashes or greater injury.”
“Blood specimens were collected from a sample of 1,882 drivers from 7 states, during 14 months in the years 1990 and 1991. The sample comprised operators of passenger cars, trucks, and motorcycles who died within 4 hours of their crash…While cannabinoids were detected in 7 percent of the drivers, the psychoactive agent THC was found in only 4 percent. … The THC-only drivers had a responsibility rate below that of the drugfree drivers. … While the difference was not statistically significant, there was no indication that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes.”
“Marijuana’s effects on actual driving performance were assessed in a series of three studies wherein dose-effect relationships were measured in actual driving situations that progressively approached reality…THC’s effects on road-tracking after doses up to 300 µg/kg never exceeded alcohol’s at bacs of 0.08%; and, were in no way unusual compared to many medicinal drugs. Yet, THC’s effects differ qualitatively from many other drugs, especially alcohol. Evidence from the present and previous studies strongly suggests that alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC encourages greater caution, at least in experiments. Another way THC seems to differ qualitatively from many other drugs is that the formers users seem better able to compensate for its adverse effects while driving under the influence.”
“This report concerns the effects of marijuana smoking on actual driving performance. … This program of research has shown that marijuana, when taken alone, produces a moderate degree of driving impairment which is related to consumed THC dose. The impairment manifests itself mainly in the ability to maintain a lateral position on the road, but its magnitude is not exceptional in comparison with changes produced by many medicinal drugs and alcohol. Drivers under the influence of marijuana retain insight in their performance and will compensate when they can, for example, by slowing down or increasing effort. As a consequence, THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small.”
“Overall, it is possible to conclude that cannabis has a measurable effect on psychomotor performance, particularly tracking ability. Its effect on higher cognitive functions, for example divided attention tasks associated with driving, appear not to be as critical. Drivers under the influence of cannabis seem aware that they are impaired, and attempt to compensate for this impairment by reducing the difficulty of the driving task, for example by driving more slowly. In terms of road safety, it cannot be concluded that driving under the influence of cannabis is not a hazard, as the effects of various aspects of driver performance are unpredictable. However, in comparison with alcohol, the severe effects of alcohol on the higher cognitive processes of driving are likely to make this more of a hazard, particularly at higher blood alcohol levels.”
It is not abnormal for the proponents of new Draconian laws based in puritan superstition to flat out lie about the facts. But even when they are not lying outright about the facts they will opportunistically use a tragedy to make their points. Besides the moral sliminess of that shady business, the associations they draw are often either ignorant or defiant of scientific principles. Let me explain a few.
Correlation Is Not Causation
Often times the ‘proof’ given by the drug war terrorist organizations is that so-and-so was involved in a crash and had marijuana in their system. This is correlation. The marijuana has not been illustrated to cause the accident. This would be just as ridiculous as if you claimed that someone had a vehicle accident while listening to Black Sabbath, and then claiming Tony Iommi’s guitar playing causes drivers to swerve across the medium and strike buses full of children.
When scientists run a test they need to know how different variations will skew their results, so they measure for control factors. If you are testing a fertility drug on mice, for instance, you will need to know if the individual mice whose fertility increased had genetic factors that contributed to the higher fertility. Otherwise the results of your test will be inaccurate. Any number of factors are present in the individual and vehicle when an accident happens. Emotional states, prescription drugs, technology tinkering, etc…all of these can also lead to accidents. Cherry picking marijuana from these factors, on top of the correlation, is just plain terrible reasoning of the most unscientific sort.
The active ingredients of cannabis stay in your system for quite awhile. You can be carrying them around for a month or longer after actually having last gotten high. So any claims of causation, with no control factors considered, based on blood content are absolutely meaningless. They are just another way of drawing an association where one might not actually exist for political purposes.
The marijuana DUI propaganda not only displays scientific ignorance, but also denies scientific findings…all the while making scientific claims. Outside of creationism, this makes those who propagate these unreasonable falsehoods some of the reigning champions of anti-science.