Voters that have approved cannabis legalization initiatives in their states made it clear that they wanted cannabis to be regulated like alcohol. In some ways that mandate has been implemented but in other ways it has yet to materialize. An example of that would be the continued prohibition of social cannabis use. Social cannabis use reform has yet to occur in a vast majority of areas where cannabis has been legalized for possession, consumption, cultivation, and/or distribution.
Social cannabis use is not the same as public cannabis use. Social cannabis use includes such things as cannabis lounges and/or allowing cannabis consumption to occur at already established businesses like coffee shops, yoga studios, and other businesses where people congregate. Whenever I post something about social cannabis use reform on social media there seems to always be at least one cannabis opponent that comes out of the shadows to try to shoot down the idea over fears of increased DUIs.
‘Oh great,’ they say, ‘we are just going to let a bunch of people get high and then they are going to drive home? No thanks!’ To be clear, driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance is a very serious issue and people should not do it. However, just because someone has consumed cannabis away from their home does not mean that they are automatically going to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Just as people do when they have consumed too much alcohol at a bar or took too much medicine while at the doctor or hospital and arrange for a safe ride home, so too can they do the same after consuming cannabis. Friends, family, taxis, Uber, Lyft – there are more travel options now than ever before. Cannabis opponents who freak out about social cannabis use act as if none of those options are out there. Presumably, they aren’t just forgetting that those options exist, they are likely purposefully glossing over them to try to perpetuate reefer madness.
As with most things anti-cannabis reform, these opponents are trying very hard to point to the unknown and paint a picture of a doomsday scenario. They try to insinuate that if this reform happens, it will be mayhem on public roads. The same tactic was used for legalization in general for all kinds of things such as an epidemic of increased youth consumption and an enormous amount of ‘social costs,’ both of which have yet to materialize.
One very big problem with that line of reasoning as it pertains to social cannabis use reform is that the cat is already out of the bag. Denver and the Bay Area of California already allow legal social cannabis use. It’s no longer a matter of ‘we don’t know what will happen’ as cannabis opponents suggest. Social use reform is already legally occurring in those areas and there has yet to be a spike in cannabis DUIs in the surrounding areas.
To be fair, I have not seen any hard statistics from before and after the reform was implemented. However, I think it’s safe to say that if there was a spike, law enforcement would be shouting about it from the rooftops and cannabis opponents would do everything they could to point to it as much as possible. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to assume that the reason why they aren’t pointing to it is that there is nothing to point to.
In Oregon, where a big push is underway to legalize social cannabis consumption, cannabis clubs and lounges already exist, albeit not licensed by the state. Opponents there are trying very hard to push the ‘terror on the roadways’ argument in an attempt to prevent the reform from being passed. What they are omitting in their argument is that with social use already occurring, there has been no spike in DUIs in the surrounding areas, and thus, their argument is not valid.
Definitively proving that someone is driving under the influence of cannabis is not as straightforward as cannabis opponents try to make it seem. Cannabis opponents try to make it sound like if there is cannabis in a person’s system, that they are automatically under the influence. That is not a scientifically sound claim. The effects from cannabis only last a handful of hours, yet THC metabolites can stay in a person’s system for as long as 100 days. Just because someone has THC in their system does not mean that they are impaired.
It’s quite possible that a person could have consumed cannabis weeks prior to an interaction with law enforcement, and haven’t been intoxicated for a very long time. That is important to keep in mind if/when law enforcement tries to bust more people for ‘cannabis DUIs’ near social use areas at any point. If that occurs, it will still very likely be that it’s not that there’s really a spike in stoned driving, and that it’s actually just a bunch of regular cannabis consumers being caught for having THC in their system.
Just as legal adults can consume alcohol responsibly away from their homes, so too can they consume cannabis responsibly away from their homes. Social cannabis use is needed for people that have no place to consume their legal cannabis, such as tourists, patients in care facilities, and people that live in housing that prohibits cannabis consumption. Public cannabis use enforcement has a disproportionate impact on communities of color, and that alone far outweighs the unfounded concerns about an increase in cannabis DUIs if/when social cannabis use reform is passed by lawmakers and regulators.
Cannabis will never truly be regulated like alcohol until social cannabis use reform occurs in every legal state. If you live where cannabis is legal, yet social cannabis use continues to be prohibited, contact your lawmakers and demand change. If you live in a state that is not legal yet but there is a push to make cannabis legal, demand that social cannabis use be part of the overall public policy change.