Californian voters will have an opportunity on November 8th to decide whether or not to legalize the possession and recreational use of a small amount of marijuana. Predictably, this measure has been met both with great enthusiasm and stiff resistance.
Perhaps the biggest resisting force comes from law enforcement, who claim they are not yet prepared to handle drivers on the road who are inebriated by THC, the chemical emitted by marijuana that causes impairment and mental effects.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, president of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen Doug Villars stated “We should get all the experts in a room before we ever enact the law and say, ‘This is what the standards should be,’ so that we who enforce the laws are given the tools to be able to remove these people from the roadways when they are under the influence of marijuana.”
This is where the biggest opposition comes in: at the moment there has been no legal determination as to what level of THC intoxication becomes dangerous. Newark Police Chief James Leal said “The problem we have in prosecuting cases now is that without a set THC limit, you are really rolling the dice with the juries. You are finding district attorneys are having a hard time prosecuting cases or they are declining to prosecute because they are having a harder time winning.”
Other states that have legalized similar laws have seen spikes in car accidents and fatalities that could have been THC related. Since Colorado legalized the substance in 2013, marijuana-related deaths have risen 48% according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
However, for the proposition’s supporters, the objections are essentially baseless. Former LAPD Deputy Chief Stephen Downing, who is on the board of a marketing firm specializing in marijuana products, stated “The use of marijuana is already there. If they are driving under the influence of marijuana, they are already doing it. My question is, why is this an issue now?”
To help prepare law enforcement, the measure would call for a 15% additional retail tax on all marijuana purchases in the state. This would bring in an estimated $1 billion in tax revenue per year, of which $15 million per year for the first five years would be given to help train the California Highway Patrol on techniques to detect THC impaired driving and develop protocols and state standards. $125 million more would go to local law enforcement for additional training.
However the results of this election go, the conversation has definitely been opened as to how best to keep our roads secured against this new type of impaired driver, hopefully helping to reduce accidents and deaths that occur as a result.
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