The argument can and has been made that legalizing marijuana is akin to legalizing alcohol. From a libertarian perspective, I’m inclined to agree. One thing to remember about this country that’s unique is that our rights don’t come from the state. We are born free under our constitution and only can’t do what we’ve explicitly been told we can’t do. Under the premise of the US Constitution, the only situations in which our rights are to be restricted is when they infringe on the rights of others. IE, we have freedom of expression, except if we use that expression to harm others. So, what does any of this have to marijuana and driving in Florida?
First, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that every state that’s legalized recreational marijuana has experienced a significant increase in automotive accidents. Depending on the state, increases have ranged from 5.2% to 6% more accidents. In Florida, that would equate to a minimum of 20,900 additional accidents per year and a minimum of 162 additional deaths. Now, for those who are gun-ho on recreational marijuana, I doubt you’d blink at those numbers. In reality, it’s a big deal. Especially to the over 162 Floridians who could die at no fault of their own. You might say that’s the ultimate infringement of other’s rights. But here’s the bigger thing. One might say that just like driving under the influence of alcohol, you just shouldn’t drive while high. Unfortunately, we know that’s not realistic but at the same time, we don’t ban alcohol because of irresponsible people driving under the influence. However, based on the study conducted by the institute there’s much more to the marijuana story.
In a controlled study in which regular marijuana users were made to remain sober for a minimum of 12 hours and road-tested the results were, "During the driving test, cannabis users were more likely than non-users to speed, hit a pedestrian, cross the centerline, miss stop signs and cruise through red lights. The cannabis users were also more likely to score high in impulse behavior." Ever sober, regular marijuana users are far riskier on the roads. Driving isn’t an inherent right, so one can argue this isn’t an infringement of them. I would also be concerned about the other implications associated with physiological changes that have nothing to do with driving. Either regular users have similar predispositions to poor driving habits or there are permanent impairments that come along with regular use. But at least that’s a personal issue.
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