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Are Stoned Drivers Better Drivers? Some Say Yes

DETROIT (1270 Talk Radio) Are stoned drivers better drivers? Yes, they are, according to attorney Matt Abel who made the case during a roundtable chat Friday about marijuana legalization on Charlie Langton's  Talk Radio 1270 morning show.

Abel, a metro Detroit criminal defense lawyer, is leading the petition drive to decriminalize marijuana in Michigan for adults 21 years old and over. He claimed during the roundtable that studies show high drivers are sometimes safer on the road than those who are sober.

The discussion was held on Friday, April 20, which is unofficially known as "National Pot Smokers Day."

"Driving studies show people are safer drivers on THC (the active component in marijuana)," Abel said. "There are studies
that show that. Safer than sober because they drive slower and more carefully."

Is he right? Abel does have some science to back him up: A May 2010 study by "The Journal Of Psychoactive Drugs" found volunteer pot smokers "performed virtually the same after smoking marijuana as they did sober and/or after smoking bunk pot."

"No differences were found during the baseline driving segment (and the) collision avoidance scenarios," scientists reported.

Another study from December 2011 by private research institute IZA found a nearly 9 percent drop in fatal traffic crashes in 16 states that have legalized marijuana. The study found that was probably due to less drunken driving in those states. See the report here.

Conversely, a December 2010 report by The National Institute On Drug Abuse found "evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicates that marijuana can negatively affect a driver's attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences."

The Institute said, "A study of over 3,000 fatally injured drivers in Australia showed that when marijuana was present in the blood of the driver, he or she was much more likely to be at fault for the accident. Additionally, the higher the THC concentration, the more likely the driver was to be culpable." See the study here.

Abel's opponent on the roundtable, Dan Calabrese, a local author, blogger at The Michigan View, and anti-drug activist, laughed at the idea that stoned drivers are safer than sober.

"The law says you can have some alcohol in your system and not be impaired ... Are you automatically impaired the first toke that you take?" Abel said in response to Calabrese's guffaw.

"You know when you're not impaired? When you haven't had any at all, and that's when you should be driving," Calabrese

Abel earlier said he wasn't defending the idea that people should drive while stoned. "Nobody's allowing people to drive while impaired, our amendment specifically says no one shall be able to drive any kind of a motor vehicle," Abel said.

The Court Of Appeals ruled this week any amount of active THC is driving under the influence, Abel said, adding, "As long
as people don't smoke or party while driving, it shouldn't be a problem."

Is there any way to test drivers for marijuana use? "It seems like there ought to be some kind of test, a code or
something, there's not now, but there's not for alcohol either ... There's no reason why those aren't standard on cars if
we really want to prevent drunk driving," Abel said.

"The smart choice is to not legalize it," Calabrese said. "When you remove sanctions from something, you get more of it ... We do not need more drug use."

"I think everybody who wants to get high already is," Abel said. "We need police to work on things that actually protect

Caller Jason from Wixom said, "We wouldn't want a surgeon getting high and operating on us... If you look at how many
people's families are destroyed by drunk driver, per se, ... They cause massive destruction. I think it should be

"I'd rather have a surgeon who was getting high the night before than one who was toasted the night before on alcohol,"
Abel responded.

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