I really need to get through these cautionary issues regarding medical marijuana research, because I have so many other things to share, so here goes – beware of statistics.
Statistics can best be used to see what we want to see. It goes like this: someone gathers numbers or takes numbers from someplace else and makes a conclusion, usually to benefit their own belief or support an agenda. We see it done all the time with polls, and most people are aware of that these days. How does this relate to marijuana? Well, my example in this post is a group called Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. They released a study in August 2013 and they were using it to fight the legalization of Marijuana in Colorado. This study used statistics to show a negative impact of legalized marijuana in Colorado. My point of contention is one of the conclusions they presented; there was an increase in traffic fatalities involving marijuana use.
Now, it’s what the study doesn’t say that is often most important. As legal marijuana use, recreationally and for medical purpose, is on the rise, so are the numbers of people using it. If those numbers increase dramatically, the number of people who have used cannabis and are involved in fatal accidents will also increase. That’s a no-brainer.
- whether or not these people were under the influence of marijuana when the accident occurred
- whether they were the cause of the accident or the victim
- if drunk driving was the cause of the accident
- if other drugs like pain killers and and anti-depressants were in use
- that it may have been a particularly nasty year for weather in the sample area
- that individuals in the statistics showing positive marijuana use may have not even used it in over 2, 7, or 30+ days
There are myriad of other things that the statistics just don’t reveal. Is further study needed? Probably. Should conclusions such as these be drawn from the incomplete data collected? Probably not.
They took some numbers, and made some graphs that portrayed the message they wanted to use to deter voters from legalizing cannabis in Colorado. This isn’t science, and it’s barely research.
According to the more hands-on scientific studies done in Australia, Canada and in the US, people drive slower when using marijuana they are less likely to change lanes or drive aggressively, and while they showed a tendency to not keep straight within their own lane of traffic, they don’t cross over into other lanes. When under the influence of cannabis, drivers are more likely to notice trouble coming up ahead sooner than the average person. They are much more likely to use their brakes to slow down than to rapidly switch lanes, and due to the hyper vigilance that can be present when using cannabis, they tend to break sooner than someone driving sober. What’s more, experienced cannabis users know their limitations and tend to avoid driving at all when they are too high, which is in stark contrast to people driving under the influence of alcohol, who most often believe they are good to go as long as they can walk. Additionally, drivers become emboldened by alcohol consumption, to do very dangerous things on the road they would never do when they were sober.
The hands on driving studies with people who actually smoke while under the influence of cannabis point to the high possibility of a lesser fatality rate than even the sober public. Even this RMHIDTA report admits the traffic fatalities in Colorado are down 16% in their study period, but present that fatalities involving people testing positive for marijuana were up. Duh. With legalized medical use there are more people using, but nothing states they were driving under the influence, and this is a very important point to be left out. Once again, there are no tests available that can show if a person is under the influence of marijuana as is done with alcohol consumption, and mark my words, if law enforcement continues to use the present testing structure, this is going to be a big issue in the future with civil rights activists, as is drug testing for marijuana use for jobs or any other reason that violates civil rights.
You must always be leery of statistics. I challenge you to read the above RMHIDTA Study. Every point in their “Executive Summary” begs for more questions be asked. Then determine for yourself what the numbers show and don’t show, taking into serious consideration who exactly is trying to say what to further their own position. And then look for more real case studies that seem to show quite the opposite. They are out there too.
Next up – Case Studies!