Lakritz: Trudeau’s pot plan is all smoke and mirrors

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Last Sunday, I was driving on John Laurie Blvd. when I caught up to a motorist in the passing lane who was doing 40 km/h in a 70 km/h zone. As I pulled out to pass him on the right, I could smell the stench of marijuana coming from his car.

Wait until marijuana is legal in Canada and then more of these bozos will be on the road. In Colorado, where marijuana has been legal for almost four years, a recent poll by the Colorado Department of Transportation showed that 55 per cent of people there think it’s perfectly all right to drive while stoned. As Time magazine reported, the poll also found that of the people surveyed who had used pot in the past 30 days, half thought it was fine to drive while high. Why should Alberta’s potheads think any differently when legalization arrives here? Some of them, like the guy on John Laurie, aren’t even waiting till then.

What is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rush to legalize pot? So he can legitimately smoke up with his pals at 24 Sussex Drive? So he can portray himself as the grand social engineer that this repressed country has been waiting for? Had Marc Garneau won the Liberal leadership, it’s likely that legalization wouldn’t have been on his agenda. Neither Paul Martin nor Jean Chretien was interested in it. Only Trudeau brought it up.

The government says legalizing pot will thwart the black market and keep the drug out of children’s hands. Yet, cigarettes have always been legal and the black market in tobacco is alive and well. What does the hopelessly naïve Trudeau think the black marketeers in pot will do – switch to stamp collecting? Nor has the legal status of alcohol and tobacco ever served to keep either of those substances away from children. Marijuana will be no different.

And no matter what rules and regulations the Alberta government put into place regarding driving while high, more people will do it when it’s legal. Drunk driving legislation has been in place for years, but people still drive drunk.

Last August, an investigation by the Denver Post found that “the number of (Colorado) drivers who tested positive for marijuana use jumped 145 per cent — from 47 in 2013 to 115 in 2016.” The Post investigation turned up other grim numbers: “In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 per cent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 per cent … More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for cannabinoids, more than 52 per cent had no alcohol in their system. By 2016, it had grown to 69 per cent.”

Naturally, those who stand to profit from legal sales of pot pooh-pooh the stats, despite the obvious parallels with legalization — the Post quoted one source involved in the business who scoffed at any connection. The paper reported that the state of Washington, where marijuana is legal, is also studying the data. Darrin Grondel, director of Washington’s Traffic Safety Commission, told the Post: “Drug-impaired driving is now eclipsing alcohol, and that’s frustrating.”

Not all Colorado drivers involved in fatal accidents are tested for marijuana, but Thomas Canfield, a Colorado coroner, says:  “ … people are dying. It’s this false science that marijuana is harmless … but it’s not, particularly when you know what it does to your time and depth perception, and the ability to understand and be attentive to what’s around you.”

Barbara Deckert, a Denver woman whose fiancé was killed by a driver who had used marijuana, told the Post: “I never understood how we’d pass a law without first understanding the impact better … And people are dying.”

Sadly, some bereaved Albertans are going to be saying the same thing after Trudeau’s pot dream comes true.

Naomi Lakritz is a Calgary journalist.


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