Over the first six months of 2017, the American Automobile Association (aka AAA) has been spreading misinformation and propaganda in a lobbying effort to defeat marijuana legalization legislative efforts in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and other states.
As reported by Leafly.com, AAA representatives have recently preyed upon unsubstantiated fears regarding the alleged “increased plague of drugged driving” and the claim that “more babies will be born high” on marijuana in their lobbying efforts against adult use regulatory reforms. The distortions do nothing to advance the public debate surrounding legalization, but they do tarnish the organization’s reputation.
According to federal data, auto accident fatalities have fallen significantly over the past two decades – during the same time that a majority of US states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use. In 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 37,500 fatal car crashes on US roadways. This total fell to under 30,000 by 2014.
Further, a recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health reports that fatal traffic accident rates in legal marijuana states are no different than those in states where cannabis remains illegal. A separate study published last year in the same journal previously reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.
One would hope that AAA would be nonpartisan in this debate; that they would be the group to separate the facts from the myths so that politicians and law enforcement would be more likely to pursue evidence-based policies with regard to regulating marijuana in a manner that strengthens public safety. Instead they’re largely fear-mongering and further politicizing the issue — calling for the continued criminalization and arrest of millions of Americans who choose to use marijuana privately and responsibly. By doing so, they are arguing in favor of the failed criminal justice policies of the past and they are alienating the 60 percent of Americans who endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis by adults (Gallup, 2016).
There are areas of public policy where AAA is absolutely in agreement with reform advocates, including NORML. For instance, we both agree that driving under the influence of cannabis should be discouraged and legally prohibited, and that the detection of either THC or its metabolites in blood or urine is not indicative of psychomotor impairment and, therefore, should not be used a legal standard of criminal liability.
Our hope is that some day groups like NORML and AAA can work together to advocate for rational policies that work to keep our roadways safe from the threat of impaired drivers. Specifically, we recognize — as does AAA — that there is a need for greater tools and methods to more accurately determine whether or not someone is under the influence of cannabis, such as via the use and promotion of handheld performance technology.
Tell AAA that the days of ‘reefer madness’ are over. It’s time for a rational and evidence-based discussion regarding how best to regulate the use of marijuana by adults and how to keep our roads safe.