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Legalization of marijuana sparks an increase in fears for road safety

The federal government intends to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana in the spring of 2017. Once it does, it's only a matter of time before we have drive-thru marijuana dispensaries. After all, the stuff isn't legal and yet it seems like there's a mom-and-pop pot shop on every street. They've all got cute names, like "Better Vape than Never," and they're sprouting up as fast as, well, mushrooms. The Canadian entrepreneurial drive – that trademark Canuck "might-do with a little government assistance" spirit – cannot be quelled, especially when it involves making money and getting high.

Once a significant portion of the nation has the legally approved munchies, they're sure to do what people have done since the first Model-T rolled off the assembly line – they're going to get under the influence and try driving. That has people concerned. Some, such as the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), worry about the dangers. The CAA last week released the results of a poll into the effects of legalization on road safety. It found that 63 per cent of Canadians worry roads will be more dangerous when marijuana is legalized and that 26 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 think a driver under the influence of marijuana is either the same or better than a sober one.

Marijuana advocates, who believe the herb can cure everything from glaucoma to world hunger, are worried that it will get lumped in with alcohol when, in fact, the science surrounding the negative effects of marijuana on driving is inconclusive. Alcohol can be measured. When it comes to weed, it's not so much how much you smoke but what you smoke that matters.

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A 2015 study conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, determined that drivers who used marijuana are minimally more at risk of crashing than sober ones. Once factors such as age, sex and race were considered, it concluded that there was no "significant increased risk of crash involvement" due to marijuana use.

Both sides of the argument are equally depressing. Seventies television private eye Jim Rockford was right when he said, in the episode "Quickie Nirvana," "Let's not start that stale pot versus booze debate again." Humans enjoy altering their states. That's a personal choice. I object to mixing it with a lethal activity, such as operating an automobile. Unless you're an airline pilot or work cleaning the windows on skyscrapers, driving is the only potentially lethal activity many people do on a daily basis. It's the one thing you do that can lead to a) your death b) the deaths of others. Knowing the risks, how do folks add, "Maybe I should get high," to the equation?

If marijuana advocates are correct, then all we have to do is chill out. More people smoking up means more people staying at home ordering pizza. That means less driving.

Social mores are changing. Twenty years ago, the notion of legal marijuana would have been the premise of a Cheech and Chong movie, not a bill put before the House of Commons. It wasn't too long ago that people thought taking a few puffs of the wacky tabacky would have you on the rooftop thinking you could fly.

As anyone who believes in self-driving cars will tell you – science will solve all our problems. Maybe some future Nobel Prize winner will develop a strain of sativa indica that actually makes you a better driver? The automobile industry could get in on the action. We could have "Ford Focus," "Chrysler Chronic" or "Toyota Purple Kush." Tim Hortons could sell "medicinal" brownies at the drive-thru. Happy Meals could finally really be, well, happy meals.

But until then, forget the argument for or against, and simply treat weed the same way you would treat any other mood modifier. If you do it, don't drive. Getting killed is a terrible way to spoil your high.

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