Another bogus headline about weed warns of stoned drivers


In a stunningly misguided article written by Dennis Thompson for, and unfortunately republished on, he asserts that society is bound to pay a steep price for allowing various forms of marijuana legalization to be passed into law.
In his hit piece on pot, Thompson warns of the “dark side” of legal weed, claiming that the growing trend we are seeing in marijuana acceptance is directly creating a major uptick in fatal car accidents, and that soon the dangers of drunk driving will pale in comparison to the dangers of driving with weed in your system.

Thompson points to one study out of Columbia University which says to have scoured fatal auto accident data from six states – California, Illinois, Hawaii, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Rhode Island – between the years 1999 and 2010.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Guohua Li, definitively states, “Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana.”
Wait, wait, wait… There is a pretty big difference in semantics between testing positive for weed, as the Doc puts it, compared to the way that HealthDay reporter Kevin Thompson summarizes Dr. Li’s stance when he says “Fatal crashes involving marijuana use tripled during the previous decade…researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health report.”
Almost everyone knows by now – at least you would think a health reporter, or editors at two high-traffic health websites would know by now – that even just the occasional toke can linger in your system for a month or more.
So which is it? Was this uptick in crashes “involving marijuana use” due to the driver literally smoking at the exact time of the crash? Was it an hour before the crash? Did that driver smoke one joint two and a half weeks ago? All three drivers would “test positive” as the actual researchers put it, and all three would sway the statistics.
But Thompson is not completely to blame, as Dr. Li does go out on his own wobbly limb by stating, “If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving.”
Toke of the Town editor William Breathes showed the world just how ludicrous it is to try to hold marijuana users to the same standards as drunks, when he demonstrated that he would fail a proposed roadside marijuana DUI test, testing three times over the proposed legal limit even when “sober”.
More reporting on the topic has shown just how baseless the claims of marijuana making people more dangerous behind the wheel really are.

Looks pretty dangerous, doesn’t she?

These reports properly address the fact that cannabis stays in a person’s system much longer than other substances. Kevin Thompson’s does not. When he does bring up alcohol, and drunk driving, it is mainly to use it as a spring board to blather on about how super-duper dangerous drinking and smoking weed and driving can be. It is easy for him to stack statistics like that when a drunk driver in a fatal car crash could also test positive for pot that he smoked weeks prior.
Thompson’s article for HealthDay has not just been picked up by WebMD, but by many established websites around the internet in the past 48 hours. Much like the now thoroughly debunked, but still widespread, “British woman dies of cannabis overdose” headlines, this one got all the way around the world wide web before the truth could get out.
The most influential factor in the Columbia study seems to have been ignored, perhaps out of convenience. As mentioned, weed stays in your system for a month or so after your last puff. So every statistic given, by Dr. Li’s definition not Mr. Thompson’s, is off the rails.
Yes, their study revealed data allegedly showing an uptick in drivers involved in fatal car crashes who had marijuana in their system. They took data from 1999-2010, presumably to capture as large a window of marijuana legalization as they could, so of course there were more drivers with pot in their system for 30+ days at a time than in the 1990’s.
Thompson’s article admits that current THC-level testing for drivers is crude, and cannabis critics see an opening. Look for much more concern-trolling over the “driving while stoned” issue, as prohibitionists find fewer and fewer straws to grasp at.