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Debunking Sabet: The Dead Stoned Drivers Fallacy

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Debunking Sabet: The Dead Stoned Drivers Fallacy

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Part One of an extended post…

The so-called “quarterback of the anti-legalization movement,” Kevin Sabet, is taking his reefer madness dog-and-pony show to the United Nations’ 61st Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.

Sabet and his organization, Project SAMUEL*, are holding a seminar on March 15 entitled, “Cannabis Legalization Five Years Later: What Have We Learned?”

The flier for the event was forwarded to me by a friend attending the commission in Vienna. Here’s what Kevin Sabet and his partners will be claiming about the effects of marijuana legalization. I’ll provide the factual rebuttals, in case anyone in Vienna can use them.

“Washington State saw a doubling of driving fatalities where marijuana was involved following legalization.”

When confronting Sabet, you must watch his use of “weasel words,” those turns of phrase that are vaguely defined enough to escape accountability to fact. In this case, it’s “where marijuana was involved.”

Note that’s it’s not “from stoned drivers.”

“Where marijuana was involved” means that marijuana was detected, in the form of either active THC or inactive metabolites, in the blood of someone killed in a car crash.

Why it’s not “from stoned drivers” is because detecting even active THC in the blood is not a reliable indicator that someone was too impaired to drive or at fault in a crash.

Don’t take my word for it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Congress last year, “THC level in blood (or oral fluid) does not appear to be an accurate and reliable predictor of impairment from THC.”

Sabet’s “where marijuana was involved” would include somebody who smoked a joint on Friday, hailed an Lyft for a ride on Sunday, only to be hit and killed by a drunk driver. Our hypothetical poor dead passenger would test positive for marijuana metabolite in his blood, so “marijuana was involved” in his death.

Given that marijuana has been legalized in Washington State and the use among adults has increased and marijuana metabolites stick around in somebody’s system for up to 30 days in some cases, just by dumb luck you’re going to find more dead drivers with pot in their system.

That doesn’t mean pot caused the crash, any more than the recent increase in married gay people in car crashes means we should panic because there are now more fatalities “where gay marriage was involved.”

Especially since Washington State has seen a decline in traffic fatalities, even as there was a six percent increase nationwide. Even more especially since Washington State is the 9th-safest state in which to drive, as measured by deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, and 7th-safest in deaths per capita.


* Smart Approaches to Marijuana Use… Except Legalization!

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