In January, Illinois will become the 11th state in the Union to legalize recreational marijuana.
Similar to many — or any — societal change, it is bound to have some unintended, good or bad, consequences. Fewer people will be fined, or sent to jail. Many of those already convicted will be pardoned.
If you think marijuana sales will be a bonanza for the small mom-and-pop entrepreneur, the answer is “maybe not.” The fee to set up a marijuana sales operation, on top of all other business costs, is a $100,000 payment to the state. That’s a “cost of doing business” expense for a large chain operation, but a big hurdle for someone starting from scratch.
And what of marijuana and driving? National figures by AAA show 15 million people per month drive within an hour of smoking marijuana. People view marijuana as less troublesome than alcohol.
It is true that marijuana is different from alcohol. For one thing, there is no instant test — no Breathalyzer — for marijuana. A blood test has to be used. Yet, marijuana evidence remains in the bloodstream long after its potential impairment has faded away. Blood test results might not be “fair” or relevant.
The more than 60 studies note that marijuana does affect different people in different ways. Weekend users tend to become forgetful. Where am I going? Occasional users slow down. Heavy users tend to not drive at all.
But there is a big difference between saying it is not overpowering and it is safe. An esurance study says someone who uses marijuana and drives within the next four hours is twice as likely to get in an accident. Other studies note that marijuana affects one’s coordination, concentration and eyesight.
What is safe is not to smoke marijuana and drive. It also makes sense for officers to use common sense and pull over anyone in jeopardy of injuring themselves or others.
Comparing it to alcohol is one thing.
Comparing it to being stone cold sober might be a better view.