Maryland’s General Assembly has previously legalized medical marijuana.

Now, it is having fits trying to sort out the bureaucratic and legal nightmares that surround licensing the product’s cultivation and distribution.

West Virginia’s legislature is considering proposals to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana.

Some see it as a potential new industry and source of revenue for the state. Marijuana has long been held to be the Mountain State’s biggest and most lucrative cash crop, albeit an illegal one.

Participants in a recent pro-pot rally at the state Capitol in Charleston held signs that said “Joints = Jobs” and “Believe In The Leaf.” (A brief pot primer here: Although the marijuana leaf is an iconic symbol, it usually is not smoked. Buds and the cola — where the tight female flowers bloom — are harvested, while the rest of the plant usually is thrown away. We looked this up on the internet, by the way.)

Maryland has begun considering the legalization of recreational marijuana. If it does, it would join (at last count) Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia in places where nonmedical marijuana is legal.

Not everyone is in love with this idea, including AAA Mid-Atlantic. Three of its officials recently appeared before the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to testify against Senate Bill 928, which would legalize recreational marijuana in the state.

AAA’s testimony included the following:

• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that drug use among night-time weekend drivers has increased nationwide by 25 per cent since 2007. The drug showing the greatest spike was marijuana, with an increase of 48 percent.

• Marijuana can have significant effects on driver behavior. It can decrease car handling ability, performance and attention, while increasing reaction times, following distance and lane deviation.

• Several studies have been conducted on the effects of driving under the influence of marijuana. One found that driving within one hour of using marijuana can double a driver’s odds of causing a crash. 

• No testing procedures exist to reliably predict driver impairment due to consumption of marijuana. Blood alcohol level can be measured to determine impairment. The same cannot be said for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana in the bloodstream. Blood content of THC does not correlate with driver impairment.

• It has taken many years to change attitudes about drinking and driving, and a similar process must now begin to educate the public about drugged driving.

 • The supposed benefits of legalizing and taxing marijuana have been compared to what was experienced through the legalization of casinos. However, any revenues generated by marijuana would be offset by consequential issues of public health and safety.

• Washington state found that in the year that passed since it legalized recreational marijuana, the number of drivers in fatal crashes who had recently used it had more than doubled. One of every six drivers involved in fatal crashes had recently used marijuana. However, overall consumption of marijuana had increased by only 2 percent.

• The District of Columbia has not compiled or released traffic data concerning marijuana, which it legalized in 2015. However, AAA quoted District officials as saying that driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol has become common, but the public is not aware of this. They said drugged drivers are less frequently detected, prosecuted or referred to treatment than drunken drivers.

AAA officials told the committee that before Maryland legalizes recreational marijuana, the legislature should seriously consider the traffic safety consequences and study further the impacts it could have on road safety.

We agree. It’s bad enough that we already have drunken and distracted drivers on our highways.

Allowing the proliferation of drugged drivers will only make the problem worse.

They will kill even more people who don’t deserve to die.

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