Marijuana Legalization: Driving High Tested By CNN, Found to Be Safer Than You'd Think

CNN may have just posted their best piece of investigative journalism in years. In the following video, three drivers of varying ages got incredibly high on marijuana and test-drove cars around a course. A driving-ed instructor accompanied them to avert any chance of an accident, and police watched from the sidelines to spot any visible 'signs' of inebriation in their movements.

The volunteers – a young daily smoker, adult weekend smoker and elder infrequent smoker – proceeded to test escalating levels of stupor against the new baseline 'legal limits' in Colorado and Washington state. They had to reach excesses of 5 times the legal limit before their ability to drive became impaired. In most cases, the danger they presented was driving too slowly or with frequent hesitations.

Although hardly scientific, this test does offer some insight into a specter which has haunted us for years: marijuana legalization. Last November, the country watched tame and good-natured celebrations sweep Colorado and Washington after their pro-marijuana ballot passed. The sudden and complete lack of tension between public smokers and police was wonderful to see; it was like two opposing armies finally laying arms to rest. It was as if a part of America had leapt into a progressive future, giving the rest of us a glimpse into what might be. Could anyone deny that this was a microcosm of the future most have been waiting for?


Despite resounding state level calls to end to the war on drugs, the DEA and federal government still loom overhead with murky legal gray zones. When asked by Barbara Walters what his current stance on the issue was, Obama said he would not make it a priority to go after recreational users in states that have passed legalization initiatives. This evasive, political response is to be expected: we aren’t permitting drugs, but we won’t fight the states on the issue.

Perhaps it would be too much to ask for the president to fully legalize marijuana and end an obscene prohibition that imprisons millions of Americans. But if the political PR can be ignored, it is undoubtedly the right thing to do. For now, maybe the best tactic is to keep harassing citizens federally, so they demand protection from their states and take the issue off Obama’s plate.

So back to our drivers, and the issue many mothers are now concerned about: children having a new intoxicant to afflict their driving skills. How did the 'impaired' volunteers actually do? Well at a certain point, the substance had an undeniable effect on their ability to navigate a vehicle sensibly. But they all maintained surprising control, even at incredibly excessive levels of marijuana consumption. Moreover, unlike drunk drivers, they were very much aware of their state and agreed they were not on top of their game. Without over-indulging, it seems people’s critical thinking can be trusted more with a few hits than a couple of drinks.

When it comes to marijuana in America, there's still a long road ahead to change laws, perceptions and behavior. But it's progress worth making, as long as it gets us away from misinformed stereotypes like this.

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Roy Klabin

Graduate student at Columbia University School of Journalism. I cover crime & corruption, social injustice and cartoon politics.

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