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Police Chiefs in Massachusetts are Worried About Impaired Driving After Legalization


After the passage of Question 4 in Massachusetts, which legalized marijuana for adult use, police chiefs in the state are expressing their concern about drivers impaired by marijuana clogging the roadways.

To have this fear, police chiefs have to be unaware of a couple things:

  1. There is little evidence that legalization is causing a problem on the roadways of states like Washington and Colorado.
  2. There are already drivers on the road that are high on marijuana.

“It’s very difficult to tell when someone uses that drug and how it correlates to their impairment right now,” said Walpole, MA Police Chief John Carmichael. “Now you see what a difficult position the police are going to be in to deal with this.”

“Going to be in?” Under Question 4 driving while under the influence of cannabis is still illegal, so the notion is now many more drivers are going to break that law because marijuana is legal to possess? An increase so large that what is not a problem now will soon become a major problem?

The ineffectiveness of ascertaining THC in one’s bloodstream as a way of detecting driving impairment is another difficulty. Drivers who are involved in accidents and have THC in their blood could have smoked a joint days ago; it wouldn’t account for the accident, but it would be filed under “marijuana-related” accidents when compiling statistics.

Many police departments are going to have to learn what actually constitutes impairment by watching the actions of a driver as opposed to what is in their blood. And they are going to have to realize that someone who has used marijuana is not impaired in a way that’s similar to someone who is drinking alcohol.

There will come a time when technology advances to the point where police will be able to tell how long ago you ingested marijuana; this may not speak to impairment since everyone has a different tolerance when it comes to cannabis, but it will be enough for them to make a marijuana DUI stick to a driver.

What cannabis users and consumers must realize is that restrictions on driving are going to be strict when it comes to them. While you may think you’re fine to drive, police may disagree and that’s a battle you’re probably not going to win. “Stoned driving” may not actually be a problem in states that legalize, but if those in authority think that it is then it will be treated as such.


  1. Sorry Joe. The writing in this article is pretty messy. First draft, stream-of-consciousness quality.

    Still, I wouldn’t mind being a passenger if you were driving stoned.

    Here’s my stream of consciousness:

    Not only is there no correlation between blood-THC-levels and impairment, there is no correlation between being really stoned and impairment. This concern is just a combination of the old confusion between alcohol and Cannabis, and the disinformation propaganda that we’ve been getting for the last 100 years — that cops have been getting for the last 100 years regarding the affects of Cannabis.

    The altered state of consciousness that alcohol causes is inextricably linked to loss of control of motor skills and driving into telephone poles and oncoming traffic. Alcohol seems to attract [some] people to want to drive when they totally, absolutely shouldn’t.

    After driving hundreds of thousands of miles while stoned and only being a good defensive driver without getting into an accident, I can tell you first hand that the “focused attention” that Cannabis causes is not a handicap, and that there is no loss of motor skills when high. And if I were overdosing, I would have no inclination to take the opportunity to go driving. It is a major distinction between drinking and smoking. Conversely, if I were driving and had a bundle of jays in my shirt pocket, I’d have no inclination to smoke until I’m impaired, which is quite a different approach than is taken by people with alcohol problems. That was my approach when I was an inexperienced driver, and 35 years later, I’m still not inclined to smoke into oblivion while driving.

    Regardless, you can get pretty close to oblivion on Cannabis before it starts to affect your driving.

    To complete the comparison, I hate having any alcohol in my system if I’m driving. Although up to 0.08% might be legal, it would make me useless, I guess since I have no tolerance. A sip of wine would make me uncomfortable behind the wheel for almost an hour, dulling my sharp edge.

    So in my book, the simplistic drinking-and-driving regulations don’t make any sense, either.

    The question isn’t how much of anything is in your bloodstream, it’s whether you can drive or not.

    One day, people found guilty of aggressive driving by the courts will be required to have breath-a-lyzers installed in their cars, and they won’t be allowed to start their engines until they’ve smoked sufficient Cannabis, and gotten mellow, and joined the Human Race.