Kayla Mendoza's Mistake Doesn't Mean Marijuana Shouldn't Be Legalized

A main point Sewell makes is that different pot dosages affects drivers in different ways, sometimes (but rarely) badly enough that someone shouldn't drive, sometimes not bad at all. Meanwhile, his study (and pretty much all studies) shows that alcohol impairs drivers badly every single time:

"Detrimental effects of cannabis use vary in a dose-related fashion, and are more pronounced with highly automatic driving functions than with more complex tasks that require conscious control, whereas with alcohol produces an opposite pattern of impairment. Because of both this and an increased awareness that they are impaired, marijuana smokers tend to compensate effectively while driving by utilizing a variety of behavioral strategies."

Alcohol, the study shows, causes high levels of cognitive impairment -- i.e., it fucks up your brain and judgment -- while "most marijuana-intoxicated drivers show only modest impairments on actual road tests."

Basically, someone on weed is far less likely to cause an accident than someone who is drunk. Far less.

According to a 1999 study titled "Role of cannabis in motor vehicle crashes" in Epidemiologic Reviews, there was no evidence found that consuming weed on its own increases someone's culpability for fatal road accidents or injuries.

Meanwhile, drunk drivers are ten times more likely to cause fatal car accidents.

Funnily enough, another study shows that potheads are more alert than alcoholics on the road.

Third, and probably most important to this argument, recent studies show that legalizing pot has actually reduced drunk driving.

A new study shows a 9 percent drop in traffic deaths where pot has been made legal. It's not a huge number. But it's significant enough to take note.

Researchers who poured through data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System found that the 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana between 1990 and 2009 show evidence that booze consumption for those 20 to 29 years of age went down. The result has been fewer deaths on the road.

Alcohol, a far more dangerous thing than weed, is not only legal; it's sold by the gallons in South Florida bars and clubs. Sure, there are laws that prevent people under 21 from purchasing it. But it's legal.

Moreover, alcohol is incredibly addictive and damages one's health.

Pot, not so much.

The Kayla Mendoza incident, while tragic, shouldn't be a jumping-off point to try to curb the legalization of marijuana.

Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.

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malcolmkyle16 topcommenter

On 29-Nov-2011, a study was published by University of Colorado Denver Professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University Assistant Professor D. Mark Anderson showing states that have legalized medical marijuana experience fewer fatal car crashes compared to states that have not. The researchers suggest that there may be fewer fatal drunk driving accidents in those jurisdictions because more people may be choosing to smoke marijuana instead of making the more dangerous choice of consuming alcohol - both traffic fatalities and alcohol consumption declined.

The rate of fatal crashes in which a driver had consumed any alcohol dropped 12% after medical marijuana was legalized, and crashes involving high levels of alcohol consumption fell 14%. The study thoroughly accounted for other contributing factors regarding this decrease, such as changes in the number of miles traveled each year and new traffic laws.

"Our research suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults," - Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.

winsomelosesome topcommenter

"6 percent is nothing" Regarding  marijuana caused accidents

"A new study shows a 9 percent drop in traffic deaths where pot has been made legal. It's not a huge number. But it's significant enough to take note."

Nice convenient logic.  Ignore one.  Highlight the other.


I feel while operating a vehicle you shouldn't be under the influence of ANYTHING that alters or impairs your judgment. Obviously alcohol impairs you but so does marijuana it slows your response time.  But I also feel that unlike alcohol marijuana has a lot of positive uses so it should be legal for those that have a reason to be on it. It's a scary idea though because there is nothing to stop people that abuse/overuse any substance from getting into a car and believing they are fine to drive and hurting or killing innocent people. If every car had a tube you had to blow in order for it to start that would be great....I know people would find away around that too just like synthetic urine for drug tests!! Technology is a blessing and a curse

smdrpepper topcommenter

She drove while drunk, so what does her saying she smokes as well have anything to do with it?  It was the alcohol in her system that caused her to murder those people.


There is a lot more stuff going on the roads as well. Drugs affect people in different ways and we have numerous legal and illegal ones out there. Lack of sleep is another factor, poor mechanical condition of vehicles, multitasking while driving, particularly texting is a major cause of accidents. So the 16 yo teenager typing constantly while driving is more of a danger than the 70 yo on a few medications. I see on a daily basis people changing lanes or making turns without signaling to other drivers what their intention is.  

It is time to change driving attitudes, to look at it as a privilege and as a responsibility to society, your family and yourself. We have to stop blaming other factors like drugs when clearly selfishness, irresponsibility and the thought of owning the road for oneself are some of  the main problems. Law enforcement and public health officials have to get a little more engaged in this, with more science and hard data instead of fear mongering and empty talking points.


Well she was drunk for one, so it'd be alcohol getting banned.

Michael Aaron Hoffman
Michael Aaron Hoffman

good logic new times. that girl is a f'n idiot. i hope the lives of the two that she took weighs heavily on her.

malcolmkyle16 topcommenter


The often cited statistic that 6-8% of drivers in motor accidents test positive for marijuana is a case-book example of mistaken causality. A positive test merely indicates that the driver has used marijuana sometime in the past 90 days. Since roughly 7% of the population uses marijuana on a monthly basis, the 6-8% statistic, far from proving anything about the effects of marijuana, simply affirms what should be expected.


@sabbrosso very well said! I have said for awhile now that a drivers license is no longer thought of as a privilege like it was for my generation and those before me.  But I would rather be out on the road with someone who sober and selfish than under the influence and selfish...  

winsomelosesome topcommenter

@malcolmkyle16 @winsomelosesome 

Should we develop a test that is more recent? If that test correlated with the 6-8% would that change your mind?  I doubt it. 

"Roughly 7% of the population uses marijuana on a monthly basis"  NIce stat.  Where did it come from? I think that number would be very hard to quantify.

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