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A Tragic DUI Crash Death Doesn’t Mean We Should Ban Alcohol or Marijuana

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There was a terrible story that happened Wednesday involving a semi-truck driver whose breath tested at 2¾ times the legal limit of 0.08 BAC.

A 22-year-old Meridian man died after a semi truck hit his vehicle at the intersection of state Highway 55 and State Street on Wednesday night, according to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.

The driver of the semi truck, 32-year-old Cecilio Eliut Camacho-Montoya, of Arizona, has been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving under the influence.

Camacho-Montoya failed field sobriety tests and registered a .22 blood alcohol content level, which the Sheriff’s Office said was over the legal blood alcohol content level of .04 for anyone with a valid commercial driver’s license, as well as over the legal blood alcohol content level of .08 for regular drivers in Idaho.

This is a senseless, tragic loss of life. And yet, we are hearing no calls to criminally prohibit alcohol in Idaho from groups like Drug Free Idaho or the Idaho Office of Drug Policy.

“The Governor’s Office of Drug Policy opposes legalization of marijuana,” and part of the reason they support keeping marijuana criminally prohibited is that “impaired driving has increased.”

The (Drunk) 800lb Gorilla in the Room

Whenever there is a horrific traffic accident with any direct or indirect correlation to the driver’s marijuana use, prohibitionists leap into action, pushing propaganda that forecasts a world of stoned mayhem on the freeways if we were to legalize marijuana.

Yet every year these same groups are relatively quiet on the subject of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, which are seemingly an acceptable risk for the freedom to drink as much alcohol of any potency at any time almost anywhere an adult chooses.

Oh, there will be calls of “don’t drink and drive” and “drink responsibly” and “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” But never will you hear any of these groups calling on adults to “just say no.” Never is there a call to reduce one’s drinking—hell, drink a case of beer if you like, just be responsible. And never, ever is there even a hint of refusing employment to people who drink alcohol and arresting them if you catch them in possession of booze.

In fact, on the Idaho Office of Drug Policy’s website, alcohol use by adults isn’t even an “issue” they are concerned with.

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We’re worried about underaged drinking, but if you’re 21, it doesn’t concern us.

It’s not that they aren’t aware of facts about alcohol’s devastation to Idaho. For instance, ODP’s Idaho Alcohol Use Fact Sheet explains how alcohol used killed 437 people and cost the state $1.1 billion. ODP’s Idaho Impaired Driving Fact Sheet tells us that 612 people were killed by drunk drivers in a decade, and that Idahoans drive drunk more than the national average. ODP’s Idaho Alcohol Induced Death Fact Sheet tells us that Idahoans are more likely to die from booze than the national average. They’re just not an “issue.”

Why Should We Add Another Drug to the Menu?

When faced with the obvious hypocrisy of giving a pass to a deadly, dangerous drug like alcohol while persecuting a relatively harmless, non-toxic herb like marijuana, prohibitionists often respond with a complaint that alcohol is already causing enough damage to society, so why would we want to compound that by adding marijuana to the menu?

It’s a stunning tell, actually. That statement tacitly admits that they know they are either powerless to prohibit alcohol or they realize prohibiting would cause greater harm. In their world, alcohol is too big to prohibit, culturally, economically, and politically, so they have to pick on a drug they can prohibit.

What they fail to realize is, first of all, marijuana is already on the menu. It’s the third most popular drug in America. Whether it is legal or not, people are using it and generating whatever negligible harm may come of that.

Second, all drugs aren’t created equal. Prohibs can’t recognize that the impairing effects of marijuana are slight and do not increase bravado. People who are too stoned to drive, unlike drunks, don’t think they are capable of driving. Also unlike alcohol, marijuana doesn’t impair in a dose-to-weight-dependent ratio. In fact, alcohol is one of the few drugs where you can guarantee a certain amount of it in the bloodstream of someone of a certain weight will be impairing. In marijuana’s case, frequent users can develop a tolerance and be able to drive safely at levels that would seriously impair a novice toker.

The Legendary All-Day Addy!

That’s not just conjecture; it’s something the federal government already agrees with. The synthetic THC pill MARINOL has been approved as medicine by the federal government since the 1980s. It was even reduced from being a Schedule II drug, a dangerous substance subject to serious restrictions, to a Schedule III drug, because it was found to be so safe to use. And on the warning label for that MARINOL pill is the warning, “do not drive, operate machinery, or do other dangerous activities until you know how MARINOL affects you.” In other words, once you do know how MARINOL affects you, feel free to drive if you’re not impaired.

From the U.S. Food & Drug Administration

The prohibitionists will trot out all manner of statistics to scare people about marijuana and driving.

  • They’ll point to how there are more drivers in fatal accidents that have marijuana in their system since its legalization—which is no more telling than noting how there are more drivers in fatal accidents who are in same-sex marriages since their legalization.
  • They’ll point to studies showing more auto insurance collision claims in legalized states than non-legalized ones—ignoring how legalized states have sprawling urban metroplexes and the states they compared them to have more cows than people.
  • They’ll point to research showing that drivers with THC in their systems are twice as likely to get into a fatal crash—failing to control for age and gender, which finds that young males are the riskiest drivers and, it just so happens, are also the people most likely to smoke marijuana most often.

The facts are these: if marijuana were any serious crash risk, we would have seen the results of that risk by now. In the 1960s, there were less than one million people smoking mild potency marijuana. By 2020, there are 28 million people smoking far more potent marijuana. And yet, traffic fatalities are far lower than they have been in decades past. Much of that owes to safer cars and better policies, sure, but marijuana doesn’t seem to be changing that trajectory at all.

Why can’t the people who accept the serious traffic risk of alcohol find a way to accept the negligible traffic risk of marijuana? For many, access to legal marijuana reduces their use of alcohol. We could be trading the danger of red-light running drunk drivers for stoned drivers who wait for stop signs to turn green and save a lot of Idaho lives in the process.

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