Higher Ground: Driving While Stoned and Native Americans Pow-Wow Over Pot

Several tribes will discuss this weekend whether they want to get into the cannabiz.

It should be noted that I’m not exactly a shill for the marijuana industry. (Though product samples can be dropped off at the Weekly offices: make sure to mark packages “Legal Marijuana” lest they be confiscated by the federal post office.) That said, when there’s positive news related to cannabis, given my predilection for smoking the stuff, I have every intention of highlighting the study, report, innovation, or miracle cure—if only to counter the hundred years of Reefer Madness propaganda that came before. (They did have cool posters . . . ) With that pot-infused preamble in place, it’s time for a joke:

What’s the difference between a drunk driver and a stoned driver at a stop sign? The drunkard hauls right past, while the stoner waits for the sign to turn green.

A study released last week by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows no link between marijuana use and car accidents. And while that’s no green light to smoke a fatty and jump into the Caddy, it’s yet another death knell to the “Just Say No” talking points.

Data from the Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers showed that booze increases a driver’s accident risk sevenfold. The road risk for people who test positive for marijuana, after adjusting for other factors, is the same as driving sober. Translation: Measurable amounts of THC in a person’s system doesn’t correlate to impairment as drinking and driving do. “At the current time,” states the NHTSA report, “specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with specific degree of driver impairment.”

In defense of the pharmaceutical industry (who are also welcome to send in samples), the use of painkillers, stimulants, and antidepressants also showed no statistically significant change in accident risk.

After alcohol, THC is the most common substance found in car crashes, and its presence increased the odds of smashing into something 25 percent. That risk, however, disappears after adjusting for variables like gender, age, and race. For example, men and young people are more insane drivers than women and the aged—and they’re also more likely to smoke ganja. Once you adjust for these factors, “the significant increased risk of crash involvement associated with THC . . . is not found.” Another complicating factor has to do with THC staying in the bloodstream for weeks on end, so while you may test positively after a fender-bender, you may also have been mellowing out (and unimpaired) for days.

Clearly, it’s best if people don’t drive under the influence of marijuana. Hell, some people shouldn’t be driving under the influence of their own power . . . because they suck. I’m only 50 years old and can barely see at night; they should revoke my license because of the odd raccoon-sized floaty-things that periodically drift across my retinas. Sorry, I digress. The most important thing for marijuana users to note is, while you’re not nearly as bad as the boozers on the road, it’s best to get baked and remain couchlocked. Who wants to fire up and sit in a steel cage, anyway? Stoned driving’s just not cool, man.

TRIBAL MARIJUANA RIGHTS RECOGNIZED

The Justice Department announced in December that it would allow Native American tribes to grow and sell marijuana on their sovereign lands, which sounds about right, since THEY WERE HERE FIRST.

Tribal governments are now trying to figure out whether they want to get into the ganja game, and have scheduled a national conference on the matter to be held here in Washington on February 27.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, representing about 50 tribes, passed a resolution last year opposing legalization on their lands (partly due to health and safety concerns for their youth), while Washington’s Suquamish said they were exploring their options for production and sale. The Yakama tribe, with more than 10,000 members, also wants no part of legal weed, and outlawed it on both their own land (1.2 million acres) and the ancestral property (10 million acres) they ceded to the federal government.

So long as they do it in accordance with the federal guidelines set up for states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, any of the 568 recognized Native American tribes can grow or sell the plant. One key sidenote: When you leave the rez in a non-legal state, you damn well better leave the Kalamazoo Kush and Chinook Chronic behind, or you’re liable to be busted, big time.

The first Tribal Marijuana Conference will be held at the Tulalip Resort Casino. Tribes will pow-wow, so to speak, to discuss the future of cannabis on their territories, including cultural issues it may raise and concerns about substance abuse. Hopefully they won’t have to sit through Tulalip regulars like Engelbert Humperdinck, Billy Idol, or Tom Jones. These wonderful people have suffered enough.

higherground@seattleweekly.com

For more Higher Ground, visit highergroundtv.com.

 
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