In 2015, Colorado resident Melanie Brinegar was pulled over by police for an expired license plate.
Despite no signs of impairment or erratic driving, the cop suspected she was stoned. Melanie answered that she had been medicating, since she is, after all, a licensed medical cannabis patient.
Giving the cop an excuse to run a roadside sobriety test, in which Melanie did not pass, a blood sample was taken showing Melanie four times over the state’s legal limit.
In court, Melanie said what many cannabis connoisseurs identity with, and what is often ridiculed in the media by so-called “addiction experts” and the police — that is, with cannabis, Melanie “drives better” and “is able to focus.” That, “when I smoke I don’t get high.”
The jurors believed her and Melanie was acquitted.
In fact, the jurors tried doing the same roadside sobriety test Melanie was subject to, and despite being sober, some of them failed. They concluded that Melanie, although “legally high,” was not impaired.
The foreman on the jury had this to say,
“The law allows you to infer that the person was impaired if they have over 5 ng/ml. But you may also feel free not to infer that and in any case use all the evidence to make your judgment.”
Of course, Colorado’s Head of the District Attorney’s Council freaked out. “You are putting lives in danger,” he told the media. “I want the message to be understood. It’s about driving while under the influence of drugs — it’s not about recreational or medical, it’s about being paired when you drive.”
But how does one define impairment?
Is it okay to drive stoned?
Now, that sounds bad until you consider the legal limit of alcohol in your system (a blood alcohol level of .08) actually increases your risk of an accident seven and a half times. For younger people, the risk is even higher.
Even a .05 blood alcohol level increases the risk of an accident by three and a half times, almost double the risk of stoned driving.
Stoned driving is one of the safest risks you can take.
Consider, talking on the phone, even with a hands-free device — this increases your risk by a factor of four.
And forget texting and driving. Estimates put this activity at a “range from eight to 23 times increased risk”
Dr. Mark Kleiman, a drug policy researcher with New York University, compared the risk of stoned driving as about the same as driving with children in the backseat.
Do “addiction experts” and drug-warrior cops ever mention these facts? What about the politicians?
Of course not.
If stoned driving is an issue threatening public safety, then we would have dealt with it long ago because people have been driving stoned for decades.
But will legalization increase the number of people smoking and therefore more people on the road, stoned and driving?
Possibly, but there’s no increase in serious car accidents in Colorado. And a growing number of juries are acquitting people convicted of stoned driving, even when they are over the state’s legal blood-THC limit.
Hopefully, something similar happens in Canada.