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High drivers predicted to increase, Alaska’s police chiefs say

By Kate McPherson 10:59 PM August 15, 2014

Drugged driving will become an increasing problem on our roads if marijuana is legalized, according to the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police. The organization, which represents chiefs and law enforcement commanders at the local, state and federal level, has renewed its concern about driving high on marijuana after hearing what it says are “unsupported opinions” from the proponents of Ballot Measure 2.

AACOP says marijuana legalization proponents have told the public there “is no problem” on our roads when it comes to driving while under the influence of pot.

“We feel there definitely is a problem,” said said Kalie Klaysmat, AACOP executive director.

But Taylor Bickford, spokesperson for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, denies a comment was made in that context. Bickford adds that driving under the influence of marijuana should be taken seriously but is not a widespread problem, given the state’s high rate of use and that it is currently being managed by law enforcement.

AACOP says drugged driving is only going to get worse if marijuana is legalized.

“A report from the President’s Office on National Drug Control Policy showed in 2006, Colorado drivers that were testing positive for marijuana were involved in 28 percent of fatal vehicle crashes involving drugs,” Klaysmat said. “By 2011, when medical marijuana was liberalized in the state, that number increased to 57 percent, so it doubled.

“The more prevalent marijuana is, the easier it is to get, the bigger the problem becomes.”

The other major concern is the difficulty in proving a driver is high because there is no breathalyzer, so blood would have to be taken.

“So that means everybody that you suspect of being impaired with marijuana is going to have to have a blood test go to a clinic, if it’s after hours it’s going to be costly in having someone able to draw blood,” Klaysmat said.

AACOP says complete data showing the effect of marijuana legalization on traffic crashes in Colorado and Washington likely won’t be available until after Alaskan’s have voted. Right now in Alaska, it’s difficult to say how many road fatalities are related to marijuana because blood tests aren’t always reported.

If approved by voters in November, marijuana use would become legal for people 21 and older. The manufacture, sale and possession would also become legal.

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