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Ponnada: Buckle up, Mary Jane

BY SRI PONNADA | OCTOBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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We’ve all heard about the dangers of drinking and driving. Some of us may have even experienced the effects firsthand. But how many of us are sure of the effects of mellowing marijuana in our systems when we’re behind the wheel?

According to the National College Health Assessment report, nearly one in four students at the University of Iowa had used marijuana during the month before the data were collected. The report also stated that 10 percent of students used the drug at least 10 times in that same month.

In a 2007 roadside survey conducted by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration of alcohol and drug use by drivers, it was evident marijuana was the most common drug across the nation in both daytime and nighttime drivers. However, the survey did not include descriptions of how the drug affected drivers.

As marijuana is becoming more widely used and also accepted in American society, it is imperative we are aware of the effects its use may have on daily, and potentially dangerous, activities such as driving.

Thanks to the Highway and Traffic Administration and the Drug Abuse Institute, we will finally know the consequences of giving Mary Jane a ride home. The two institutions will use the University of Iowa’s state-of-the-art National Advanced Driving Simulator to conduct the first study analyzing the effects of marijuana on driving performance.

This groundbreaking study could not only lead to the development of stricter drug per se laws and other drug-related policies that will protect our citizens from drugged drivers, it will also educate people and protect them from themselves.

The study will use around 20 volunteers, ages 21 to 55, who live within 40 miles of the UI. They will be transported to and from the facility while the study is taking place. The cannabis will come from the Coy W. Waller Laboratory Complex at the University of Mississippi — one of the few legal pot-production farm in the United States.

According to the safety administration, research has shown laws limiting the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system have been effective in reducing alcohol-related deaths.

However, it is difficult to prosecute drivers with other drugs, such as marijuana, in their system because there is no established scientific evidence associating a certain body fluid concentration of these drugs with impairment.

This study will provide more information in order to identify and prosecute drivers under the influence of marijuana and secure the safety of our streets.


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