Marijuana Prohibition Corrupts; Absolute Marijuana Prohibition Corrupts Absolutely

One of the indirect though no less serious consequences of marijuana prohibition is the mischaracterization of clinical research in order to support the federal government’s bankrupt policy.

For example, last week the Obama administration called for the expansion of states to enact laws criminalizing motorists who drive with the residual presence of drug or inactive drug metabolites in their body. In the case of marijuana, these policies are especially egregious because its metabolites may remain present in urine for weeks or months after past use. Further, studies have consistently reported that the presence of marijuana metabolites is not associated with psychomotor impairment or an elevated risk of motor accident — a result that should be self-evident given that cannabis metabolites only form in urine after the drug’s primary psychoactive compound, THC, has been broken down and converted by the body over a period of several hours.

So how does the federal government justify its call for implementing such an inane and discriminatory policy? Simple. By claiming that supposed ‘marijuana and driving menace’ is so prevalent and severe that lawmakers have no other choice but to enact such inflexible and nonsensical policies to halt it.

Now I’ve written on the subject of cannabis use and psychomotor performance numerous times, including recently authoring the white paper Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review. In short the science says this: there appears to be a positive association between very recent cannabis exposure and a gradually increased risk of vehicle accident; however, this elevated risk is below the risk presented by drivers who have consumed even small (read ‘legal’) quantities of alcohol.

Does this conclusion support the blanket criminalization of marijuana or the enactment of the sort of zero-tolerant per se driving laws outlined above? No more so than such a conclusion advocates for a return to alcohol prohibition.

So what’s the administration to do? That’s easy — just fund more research. And what to do when that federally funded research fails to produce the results they were looking for? That’s even easier: just claim that they do anyway.

Such is the case with a just-published study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs assessing the psychomotor skills of subjects on a battery of off-road driving simulator tests both before and after smoking marijuana (and/or placebo).

During the course study, subjects were asked to respond to various simulated events associated with automobile crash risk — such as avoiding a driver who was entering an intersection illegally, deciding to stop or go through changing traffic lights, responding to the presence of emergency vehicles, avoiding colliding a dog who entered into traffic, and maintaining safe driving during a secondary (in-the-car) auditory distraction. Subjects performed these tests sober, and then shortly (30 minutes) after smoking a single marijuana cigarettes (or placebo).

So how did the subjects perform? Much to the apparent chagrin of the investigators, just fine.

“No sex differences or interactions of sex and marijuana were observed for any of the driving tasks. Participants receiving active marijuana decreased their speed more so than those receiving the placebo cigarette during a distracted section of the drive. An overall effect of marijuana was seen for the mean speed during the distracted driving (PASAT section). [N]o other changes in driving performance were found.

In short, subjects had no greater likelihood of responding adversely to any of the simulated events after smoking marijuana than they had prior to consuming cannabis.

Of course, these are not the sort of results that NIDA — who provided funding for the study — or the Drug Czar’s office are looking for. Therefore, the authors are required find some outcome — any outcome — supporting the administration’s claim that driving under the influence of cannabis is a serious and significant threat. How do they do that in this case? Simple; by stating subjects lack of impairment was, in fact, implicit evidence of their impairment!

“Persons smoking the placebo cigarette showed an improvement in performance of the PASAT during the driving task, likely attributable to practice effects. Under the influence of marijuana, however, no differences were found between PASAT performance during practice testing and while driving. Participants who smoked active marijuana decreased their speed during this section of the drive, suggesting additional compensatory skills were used.”

In other words, the authors are claiming that because subjects on one specific test (the auditory distraction test) drove more slowly when completing the task after smoking marijuana than they did prior to consuming cannabis, but otherwise manifested no difference in the outcome of said test — or on any other test for that matter — that this is somehow strong evidence that marijuana has a significant and adverse impact on driving.


Under the influence of active marijuana, participants exhibited increased drowsiness, although this did not appear to affect their driving [emphasis mine]. Participants under the influence of marijuana failed to benefit from prior experience on a distracter task [what the authors want the reader to emphasize] as evidenced by a decrease in speed and a failure to show expected practice effects. This study supports the existing literature that marijuana does affect simulated driving performance [ditto], particularly on complex tasks such as divided attention. It is anticipated that many teenagers and young adults driving under the influence of marijuana are doing so while conversing with friends in the car, listening to music, talking on the cell phone and/or text messaging others. These behaviors divide the driver’s attention and are particularly dangerous under the influence of marijuana [what the authors really, really want the reader to emphasize].”

And that, my friends, is just the latest example of how marijuana prohibition corrupts, and how absolute marijuana prohibition corrupts absolutely.

82 thoughts

  1. ButWhaddAboutDeChilldrens?!ButWhaddAboutDeChilldrens?!
    (Help!.I’ve fallen into a Mantra, and can’t get Out!)

  2. #33. I sure hope that you are right John. Not to get too off topic but I believe the new Arizona policy on illegal immigrants was probably used to divide the masses and gather votes as well. Yet, I do not have much “hope” for the Obama administration because he has been ignoring the issues that he had defended in his campaign. From now on voters need to vote for politicians who strongly defend their policies and respect the people that ask them serious questions. BTW I hope that Obama would not support this new policy it would break my heart for him to support new oppressive DWB style laws.

  3. But these skewed results are no evidence of conspiracy. These types of summaries are just experts defining the data for those of us who might misunderstand or misrepresent the raw data. Don’t you understand how dangerous cannabis is? The science (as interpreted by government approved experts) proves it. This administration promised to let science lead policy and it is following through on that promise. Can’t you see that?

  4. I’ve been driving about as long as I’ve been smoking pot, which is over forty years. In that time I have gotten exactly three moving violations, and none in the last twenty-four years. I have had no collisions. None. I treat traffic laws with the attention and respect they deserve, and I drive the speed limit under all circumstances. But—according to these idiots, I’m a danger to everyone else on the road because I might have some residual pot in my system. If I’m driving properly, what’s the problem?

    What’s being done to remedy the overwhelming amount of residual incompetence behind the wheel being exhibited by all those lousy drivers out there who don’t smoke pot? What’s their excuse for driving like morons?

  5. The federal government needs to be dismantled and rebuilt using good honest people. There has never been a more draconian empire throughout history. If you think the middle ages were bad, wait until the Fed takes control of the United States.

  6. The walls of prohibition are crumbling. It won’t be long now. November will be very interesting to say the least. No retreat, no surrender.

    And anyone who has smoked will tell you that it makes them a more aware and cautious driver. I also detest when babylon plays the “paranoia” card. The only reason I would ever become paranoid from smoking is if I suddenly saw a cop outside my window.

    Paranoia is not caused by smoking cannabis, it is caused by the “fear” of being thrown in jail with criminals and murders. Most cannabis smokers are hard working stand up citizens, the only negativity that comes along with cannabis is which is produced by MEN through the means of illegal black markets, cartels, and violence.

    So what happens when a nonviolent “drug offender” with no criminal record is unconstitutionally incarcerated? They have to fight for their life, and learn how to become a demon or they risk getting raped and shanked. If that nonviolent offender makes it out of prison do you think he will be the same non-violent stand up citizen?

    Obama….wake the fuck up man…what the fuck are you doing? Quit clowning around and make the change happen that you promised your voters.

  7. I am fiddleing right now….we will never be legal….there is a big hole of crude oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, but pot is safely criminalized and categorized as a level one narcotic…sounds reasonable..our only hope is that California leads the way and maybe becomes it’s own country when the this US civilization does finally tank…and it will with the backassward thinking we continue to do. Be scared…save your seeds and hide your weed

  8. are you shittin me?? for thirty two years, ive been driving after using cannabis….now, i understand we should not take chances like that but i must be truthful when i say that i trust me wayyy more after a draw or two of the pyrex then any amount of alcohol.hell, i am cautious and attentive more so then when i am not consuming. i try to tell people its a way of life for us.i gave up alcohol just to do a couple hoobers every three or four hours or so like on week ends. i wait for after work during the week .what an awesome peace to the end of the day…hell, i get more stuff done at the end of the day then i do all the rest of the day at work.ill be glad to point out that, i have not had an accident ever while using cannabis .the green is a great utility…when can we finally benefit from its awesome comfort….

  9. The aggravating factors of driver impairment go far beyond substance abuse. People are driven to distraction in a myriad of ways while driving. Many of the perfectly legal advertisements, technologies, and social interactions we think are necessary for GDP are often on par with even full blown drunk driving.

    Like many people, I know what time of the night to be wary of the drunk drivers and what areas of town are prone to a high concentration of that behavior. But it is all the soccer moms with 12 screaming kids, the tweens and others texting, and the generally zonked out overworked masses that have always caused me so much grief.

    The biggest hurdle for many in states with per se laws already in place is that even if you are the most responsible, you take a serious risk of being sampled even if not at fault in an accident once you get hospitalized. Most people in this nation do not have access to real public transportation. Even in the cities with the best transit systems, it is limited to mainly the core urban centers. This leaves most people who need other forms of transportation to do things like grocery shop, etc at a huge risk even if they were to try and work that lifestyle choice in.

    I guess the point with that little tidbit is that a lot of the groups who love to foster most of the DUID laws are a strange mix. I’ve found too many of them live in urban locations where public transit works or works
    “well enough” to help sway their decisions. I just wish they’d realize that 85% of the country or more does not, or cannot access these systems. We are stuck with the system we have and we all know there is a great risk in venturing into the public domain. It is a social contract.

    When I first read through the new ONDCP plan, that was one of the largest highlighted areas of concern I had. People simply do not realize how unbalanced the current thresholds are and how many prescription drugs can land you into the same trouble as the “illicit” ones if you happen to wind up in a bind over this. Millions of Xanax/Valium/Etc users be warned. Those barbiturate residues are on par with cannabis. It doesn’t matter if you use it only in the evening when you got home to manage your anxiety. The next day you’ll light up the tests for most states as if it were the 4th of July.

    I’ve lost family members from drunk and “other” driving. Both are just as dangerous in my view. I just cannot stand by though and watch people systematically persecuted for existing. Like I said, it is a social contract and everyone needs to understand the fine print involved. Not just keep persecuting the morally objectionable fruit hanging from this tree.

  10. now, let me throw this in as well. if cannabis were legalized and driving under the influence became stricter…i would gladly honor the laws to gain my personal freedom back….GLADLY…how can saliva testing be brought out as a rational form of testing for the road as well as for us to keep our good jobs…..come on folks…

  11. Could cannabis seeds someday be the next fuel for our cars?

    It’s fearmongering spread by the industries that don’t want pot legalized. I think big pharma is behind a lot of it. I’d sure as hell rather smoke weed for depression or pain than be on one of those pain meds and be snowed over, or on an antidepressant and doubling my size in blubber.

  12. You WILL obey and buy the products of Wall Street! Period. Dissenters will be thrown to the mercy of the courts. If you have any money, it is to be spent only on “approved” products to make the wealthy elite more wealthy and elite. Politicians are the errand boys of the elite, and police the enforcers for the politicians. Not much “mystery” to it.

  13. Sounds like the Obama administration is suffering from the “residual effects” of Big Pharma’s wallets. Also,#41 very well said,but it seems that the actual FACTS are not enough to over ride the deep pockets of Big Oil,Pharma,Tobacco,Cotton,Alcohol and Chemical co’s. Until,and even after, California becomes legal we are going to hear more and more BS studies about the harmless weed. But, as we all know, THE WORLDS MOST BENIFICIAL NATURAL RESOURCE “Cannabis” is only benifical to the people,not to big Corp’s bottom line.Just like the NIDA,National Institute on Drug Abuse,”OUR” Government, does not want to hear the benifical effects of Cannabis.We need to MAKE them hear us with our VOTES people.Pass it on!! The Domino’s are starting to fall!!

  14. I voted for Obama. Hell, I even donated money to his campaign because I thought he really would bring change by applying rational thought and science to public policy. I now see him for who he really is: a power hungry politician who wants the federal government to control every aspect of our lives. Maybe those “nuts” who claim that he wants to take their guns away are on to something. In any case, I will be working against his re-election. I would rather have Sarah Palin take my rights away than a Democrat who smooth talked me out of my cash and into voting for him. Anyone here who thinks Obama represents your interests had better wake up soon!

  15. It is a lie that marijuana impairs your physical and mental capabilities. As a patient, I use cannabis during my workouts to ease my chronic pain. I use a rowing machine, I do martial arts, I go for long hikes while I am medicated. If I was impaired in anyway I could not maintain balance and perform physical feats of precision.

    Although I believe the experienced marijuana user can drive while under the influence, I think there should be laws preventing it. Any cannabis user/patient can agree on this. It is a damn shame that our law makers can’t see that all they are doing now is attacking patients/users; and our roads and highways could be made safer if we banned hand held cell phones for example, and other real distractions for drivers.

  16. It is all just a matter of when. I say the tipping point for medical use in the states will be around state number 19-20, when about 1/3rd or more of the states make medical cannabis legal, that will start a chain reaction for all states to have legal medical cannabis. Very shortly after that, once California has led the way, all the other states will line up to re-legalize

  17. Corruption justs creates more laws. The laws create more UNICORNS. The more laws the Feds throw at us, the more control they have. With all the bullshit going on around our borders, what makes the government so fearful of MARIJUANA PROHIBITION going down the tubes and rebel against the power of the masses in this country that wants marijuana legal. It just shows us that our voting power does’nt mean shit. The FEDERAL OVERLORDS are losing their stranglehold on the American people and devise other terror tactics and laws to stay in control. Thew NEW WORLD ORDER is alive and well in this country and the 21ST CENTURY INQUISITORS are still going to enforce their trade, to create more UNICORNS. MARIJUANA PROHIBITION will just keep the drug cartels going and the mentality of violence go hand in hand with unjust laws and the eye of the beholder with one blind eye shut and the other eye wasting our tax dollars on a drug war that was lost when it was created. I guess corruption is golden and the laws are silent on peoples rights.

  18. How does a guy that has “admittedly” smoked weed not understand how harmless it is. I’m starting to wonder if our president has ever smoked before in his life.

  19. So Rand Paul won the primary by a landslide. Rand Paul believes in full legalization and ending the drug war.

    Rand Paul is a LIBERTY CANDIDATE.

    NORML says “what movement” and “it’s not viable” when I talk about the liberty movement… STILL NOT VIABLE NORML???

    The Liberty Movement IS THE KEY to legalization.

    [Editor’s note: Thanks or your uninformed and bias political opinion.

    Has Rand Paul been elected to the US Senate? No. Did he beat an unpopular and feckless campaigner? Yes. Have voters been against incumbents since 2006? Yes. Do they uniformly support so-called liberty candidates? No, hardly. Could Rand Paul have been a viable candidate without his father’s fundraising machine? No. How far did Ron Paul’s large money stash get him in presidential politics? Not very far (About as far as Mitt Romney’s got him). Could Rand Paul get elected to the Senate from KY? Maybe. But not likely in KY’s general election if he sounds like some kind of wild-eyed revolutionary. If he is elected can he (or any single Senator) legalize cannabis? No.

    Don’t let your political bias and zeal for so-called ‘liberty’ candidates to end the 73-year-old war on cannabis consumers take over rational thinking and political reality in Washington DC when 218 members of the Congress and minimally 60 senators are needed to actually amend the federal laws that prohibit cannabis…and a President actually willing to sign the bill into law.

    The so-called liberty movement is NOT the key to the legalization of cannabis. The political candidates of today that claim to support ‘liberty’ are the same populist-sounding crowd that got elected in 1994….how much ‘liberty’ did they bring to cannabis consumers?

    Getting cannabis consumers to organize for their own liberation (ie, more than one percent of cannabis consumers have to come out of their smokey closets), placing binding voter measures on the ballot, electing supportive/un-electing non-supportive politicians–from any party–and litigating bad laws are what actually changes prohibition laws.]

  20. What’s new, Obama’s a liar and he’s a typical politician. If there’s no money for politicians to make in the marijuana industry…they will all be against it. We have to figure out a way for politicians to make money in order for them to back pot legalization.

  21. If we do a list of famous people who have smoked pot and not been held back because of it…

    you not only start off with the last 3 presidents and 2 olympic gold medalists, you also include the Beatles, Doors and Rolling Stones. How is that bad company to be in?

  22. pee to work pee to drive how insane this country is becoming when do the american people have rights anymore how communistic this country is becoming the going to win the war on weed or make all pot smokers walkers and unemployed. if you refuse a pee test you lose your job now if they have thier way if you dont pee you lose your license something has to be done iam tired of being criminalized for smoking weed at home on the weekends

  23. Three jeers for Obama. A new slogan might be No You Can’t. But seriously what would the headlines have read if he rejected the initiative. Can’t you just see it now.

    Any and every business in a capitalistic system must must forever expand or else cease to exist. That’s not a critisism of anything, just a fact. The drug testing industry is no different. Increase revenue or else face decreased investment. First they wanted to test the military, But “we don’t want to test civilians”. Then it was transportation workers, “but only those in key jobs, not the general public”. Then it was the general public if they wanted a new job, “but not random testing of existing employees”. Then of course it was random testing, but not school children… etc. This has been the story every since Reagan nullified the 4th 5th and 10th amendments. Eventaully they’ll want a hair sample your from dog.
    And why shouldn’t they. Pot smokers don’t vote that issue, or else things wouldn’t be the way they ARE. We could learn a lot from the Tea Party, or the gun nuts, or those who brave enough to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. They detect the congress critters most against their issue and target them for defeat. You history lovers may remember may remember a drug warrior named Bobb Barr. When Washington D.C. voted to legalize medical marijuana he said fine, were just not going to count the votes. He was targeted, he got spanked, and last I heard he’s on our side now.

  24. That is total BS and sadly, exactly what I have learned to expect from our government. I recently was forced to go to drug treatment for a marijuana charge. I met a guy there who has a DUI charge in South Dakota because of THC in his blood. He was not under the influence of anything while driving. They arrested him for a standing warrant and took his blood by force against his will. Unbelieveably Fuct and a violation of human rights.
    California’s move to allow the people to vote to legalize pot this novemeber is huge.
    You NORML supporters may want to help out LEAP as well. Together we can change things.
    P.S. Jesse Ventura 2012!

  25. Oh no!! Don’t support Jesse Ventura, a liberty candidate!! NORML told me I can’t!

  26. Holy Smokes. Why is it LE has such a problem with the end of prohibition? Why? It makes no sense. Oh I remember. “Follow the Money, follow the money.” Their paychecks are paid by it.


  27. Holy Smokes. As Russ said, “Your prohibition ends where my skin begins.”


  28. – Zero-tolerance “per-se” testing / DUID statutes are
    unscientific, (because they don’t actually test for present indicators of impairment)
    mean-spirited, (for unjustly condemning those who are not actually “intoxicated”),
    a makeshift contrivance, enacted solely for the convenience of NOT having to determine what threshold-levels of
    inactive “detectable compounds” constitute actual impairment.

    – There are newly developed and more reliable roadside tests which detect only RECENT cannabis use,
    such as coated-magnetic-nanoparticle meters,
    (which measures actual THC), and saliva testing.

    – More attention ought to be given to these breakthrough technologies,
    and less to outmoded, pissed-stained urine-testing…!!!

    – Until these supplant less accurate methods, (i.e. measuring INACTIVE metabolites),
    present and future cannabis legislation must strongly acknowledge and refute the flaws inherent
    in zero-tolerance per-se modalities, as this portion of one state’s proposed medical marijuana program does:

    “a person, (patient), shall not be considered to be under the
    influence solely for having cannabis metabolites in his or her system.”

  29. #27 is absolutely correct. The commies call gullible people who will vote away their rights & freedoms, “useful idiots”. The only political party that wants to end pot prohibition are the libertarians. There’s no hope of reforming the Democrats. Because, they believe in big govt & this means less freedom & civil rights for the common man. The only hop is for Libertarians to vote Republican & reform that party back to pre-Nixon days. I’ve talked to a lot of Democrats & only one is so hard line Obama that she can’t admit her voter’s remorse. Find out what political candidates are for ending big govt & restoring our civil rights, like regulating cannabis via re-legalizing. They’re out there & they’re never Democrats. So, get over it already & join the new American Revolution. Throw out any incumbent from any party who’s record shows they only care about themselves & their image.

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