California’s Reefer Madness
Simon’s gaze was transfixed on an uncertain point across the room. Every now and then his eyes would give in to the strains of having to stay awake, eyelashes flittering to a close. He would silently nod off a bit then abruptly reconnect with our world, as if jolted by some unseen electric shock.
I had barely recognized him yesterday in the controlled chaos of this emergency room. Two years ago when I saw him, he was a frightened and suicidal 17-year-old living in the grips of a mentally ill mother and a devoted Scientologist father. Back then he’d been “rescued” by a squad of Scientology nuts who circled him and demanded his release. One of them was a suit who described himself as John Travolta’s lawyer happymd.org/california/los-angeles/medical-marijuana-doctors/medical-marijuana-card-in-los-angeles-ca-online. In any event, his forlorn and helpless expression spoke volumes that his mouth could not that day. The Cruise cadets scooped him up and carried him away. “He’ll be back,” I muttered to a colleague So here he was, a bit older and a lot sicker. “I just love getting high, man,” he bellowed at me, his grinning face lit up with pride. “See, look,” he said, his stained fingers digging around in a front pocket of his once-blue jeans. He produced a tattered and four-folded set of photocopies and handed them to me.
They were his physician’s statements for procuring medical marijuana. The copies bore the logo of a “Family Practice” pot clinic and some auspicious language explaining that Simon needed to get high for a “medical problem.” What, I wondered, could this generally healthy 19-year-old be carrying that requires the use of dope.
We Voted for This?
When millions of us Californians voted for Proposition 215 in 1996 legalizing medical marijuana, we did so with images of gaunt and pained terminally ill patients. Pot, we were told, would be used to help the most desperate of our brothers and sisters gain weight and feel better. Instead, it has degenerated into little more than a front for legalized drug dealing.
Some drivers pose a potential risk when they take to the roads, rolling too stoned. A growing body of national statistics indicates that fatal crashes involving drugged drivers have increased, and law enforcement blames medical marijuana use.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 16.3% of the drivers it has randomly studied during the night had taken various legal and illegal impairing drugs. The agency states that half of these drivers were driving while high on marijuana. The California Highway Patrol attributes the death and injury of some 1,000 drivers each year to drugged drivers.
Most states have no standard that defines the amount of pot that a driver is allowed to have in his or her system, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thirteen states have zero-tolerance laws; another 35 states have no standard in place. To detect marijuana impairment typically requires police to administer a lengthy, 12-point examination.
“Marijuana is a significant and important contributing factor in a growing number of fatal accidents,” Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy in the White House and former Seattle police chief, told the Los Angeles Times.
Even in the late 1970s, federal officials stated they were concerned about how significantly impaired stoned drivers might be. The U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare had released its sixth annual “Marijuana and Health” study. Dr. Robert L. DuPont, the agency’s director at the time of its release in 1977, told United Press International that his primary concern was pot’s “potential effect on automobile accidents in this country,” and advocated “the need to develop a simple way to detect marijuana in the body.”