ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, but the United States House of Representatives, in passing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884), has missed an important opportunity to address the critical issues of cannabis legalization’s potential impact on impaired driving and underage consumption.
Chris Swonger, President and CEO of Responsibility.org commented:
“As a leader for 30 years in eliminating impaired driving and underage consumption, we at Responsibility.org view the MORE Act as an opportunity for our nation to address the potential impacts of cannabis legalization—and our organization stands ready to make sure these important factors are considered in any cannabis-related regulations put in place.
Federal data shows the United States has made remarkable progress reducing traffic fatalities and underage drinking, record low levels. To continue that momentum, we must acknowledge evidence that increasingly shows multi-substance impairment is a serious danger on our roads – in fact, drivers who combine multiple impairing substances are up to 200 times more likely to crash than a sober driver.1
“One in three Americans lives in an area where cannabis is legal. In 2016, 50.5% of fatally injured drug-positive drivers (with known drug test results) were positive for two or more drugs and 40.7% were found to have alcohol in their system.2 Neither impaired drivers nor at-risk kids drink alcohol on Monday, consume cannabis on Tuesday, and take impairing medications on Wednesday. We cannot afford to continue thinking about these issues in silos.
Responsibility.org is committed to working with lawmakers to address gaps in the MORE Act before taking any further action or voting on the bill in the Senate.”
It is critically important that the MORE Act be amended and that all federal and state actions related to cannabis institute, amongst other priorities:
- Expanded drug testing for impaired drivers, including roadside tests (oral fluid) and expanded toxicology lab capacity.
- Specialized training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges on how to handle impaired driving cases that may involve drugs or multiple substances.
- Scientific standards established for cannabis impairment
- Minimum legal age of 21 for possessing or consuming cannabis and penalties for illegal purchases/sales.
Responsibility.org has awarded $500,000 in grants through the Governors Highway Safety Association and worked alongside other partners such as AAA, the National Sheriffs Association, the American School Counselors Association (ASCA), and Classroom Champions to develop and implement evidence-based resources and best practices on cannabis’ impact on impaired driving and children’s health. For example to help train law enforcement officers in detecting cannabis-impaired driving and help parents and educators teach kids about the impact of cannabis on developing brains.
Multi-substance use is one of the three factors identified by Responsibility.org’s innovative Stop High Risk Impaired Driving initiative (STOP HRID), through which road safety, law enforcement, and treatment professionals partner to identify the factors that make impaired drivers the most dangerous and propose reforms needed to stop them.
Despite the increasing risk of impaired driving involving drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol, detecting impaired driving involving drugs remains difficult, costly to detect, and hard to prosecute. There is no scientific standard for cannabis impairment, drug impairment detection requires specialized training, and most states only allow blood draws for evidential testing.
While Responsibility.org, advocates, and Americans in general have made significant progress in the fight to eliminate impaired driving and underage consumption in the last few decades, this progress could be slowed or even reversed if policymakers overlook the potential societal impact. As our nation decriminalizes and legalizes substances, we must do so at a pace that enables communities to have resources in place and to scale to address these issues effectively.
Responsibility.org is committed to working with lawmakers to make sure any cannabis-related legislation includes provisions to address impaired driving and underage consumption.
To learn more about STOP HRID, please visit stophrid.org. To learn more about cannabis and children’s health, please visit https://asklistenlearn.org/parents/alcohol-affects-kids-brain/#How-Marijuana-Affects-the-Developing-Brain.
About Responsibility.org: The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) is a national not-for-profit that aims to eliminate drunk driving and work with others to end all impaired driving, eliminate underage drinking, and empowers adults to make a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices as part of a balanced lifestyle. Responsibility.org is funded by the following distillers: Bacardi U.S.A., Inc.; Beam Suntory Inc.; Brown-Forman; DIAGEO; Edrington, Mast-Jägermeister US, Inc.; Moët Hennessy USA; Ole Smoky LLC, and Pernod Ricard USA. For nearly 30 years, Responsibility.org has transformed countless lives through programs that bring individuals, families, and communities together to inspire a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices. To learn more, please visit Responsibility.org.
Shulze et al., 2012; Griffiths, 2014
NHTSA FARS as cited in Hedlund, 2018