'Driving high' a cloudy issue

Driving under the influence of marijuana is not safe, Oklahoma law officers say. Others say marijuana use does not impair most drivers who smoke.
by Robert Medley Modified: March 17, 2014 at 8:00 pm •  Published: March 17, 2014

“It is absolutely ridiculous,” Moody said. “There is no claiming that marijuana can impair driving 30 days later.”

He said he has seen a slight increase in the number of clients he represents on driving under the influence of marijuana charges recently.

Norma Sapp, the director of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML, said the blood test for marijuana does not reflect a driver’s performance on the roads.

“It’s not fair,” Sapp said. “And it’s definitely not scientific to accuse someone of being impaired when they just have it in their blood.”

She said she does not think smoking marijuana causes most people to drive poorly, and smokers may drive more carefully and pay more attention to detail, concentrating more on the immediate task, she said.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Ronnie Hampton disagrees.

Hampton said people who are high on marijuana do not drive as well as others. He said law officers are better these days at recognizing more drivers who have been using pot on Oklahoma roads and have seen more wrecks. Stoned drivers are poor at multitasking, and have trouble “walking and chewing gum at the same time,” he said.

And he said that since marijuana for recreational use was legalized in Colorado and Washington in November 2012, more people think driving high on pot is not dangerous.

“I think what we’re seeing are more people on the roadside who are obviously impaired,” Hampton said.

He said drivers who have smoked marijuana have slower response times.

Hampton said troopers test drivers’ coordination and vision. A driver may be asked, for example, to look at a trooper’s finger and follow it back and forth.

Hampton said it is his job to crack down on drivers who have smoked marijuana. He said he believes stoned drivers don’t drive as well as most others.

In December 2012, Hampton worked a fatality wreck in Marshall County that involved a driver who tested positive for marijuana use and lost control in a curve on a county road. A passenger riding in the SUV was killed.

“I’ve heard people say ‘I’ve never seen anyone who has smoked marijuana kill anybody,’” Hampton said. “Well, we have.”

by Robert Medley
Breaking News Reporter
Robert Medley has been a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1989, covering various news beats in the Oklahoma City metro area and in the Norman news bureau. He has been part of the breaking news team since 2008. A 1987 University of Oklahoma...
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