A US study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in Washington State – which legalized marijuana in December 2012 – reveals a worrying trend: the legal limits of cannabis consumption that allow one to drive are arbitrary, not backed by science, which means that it may put motorists in danger. The researchers found that the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had recently used cannabis has more than doubled: from 8% to 17% from 2013 to 2014. In addition, one driver out of six in such fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana.
“This significant increase is alarming,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the foundation. “Washington has to serve as a case study to open people’s eyes and make them see what may happen to road safety in other States after the legalization of drugs”. Washington was one of the first States to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but at least 20 other States are considering doing the same choice by 2016.
Cannabis kills. Not only because it can be the beginning of a long journey into the world of drugs, which may even destroy a person, but also because its use alters our ability to discern reality. In a world where cars are the main transport means, it does not mean an exponentially increased “risk”, but an exponentially increased “data” concerning road accidents, some of which are even deadly.
Provided that the cannabis market today is much more dangerous than 50 years ago (to be clear, in the Hippie’s days the active ingredient THC was at 5%, today it has reached 50%), what happens with the brain of those who use it? Cannabis increases stimuli in the prefrontal cortex area, which is responsible for decision making. Gathering non-coded information “turns off” certain neuronal receptors (like turning off a radio in a store where there are too many of them on at the same time), thus reducing also the ability to process information. Too much “noise” prevents a correct view of reality. Hence – and this is trivial and tragic at the same time -, one does not have a clear vision of whether (s)he has to turn right or left, nor of a wrong way or of an imminent danger. Then, tragedies happen.
Besides, we have to keep in mind that it is the “first step” of an inverted pyramid, which leads into the depths of drug addiction. In this case too, it is not a matter of “statistics”, but actual life situations.
“Smoking joints has become a routine activity. This thing scares me: it is as if you were creating an army of unmindful people. Cannabis gives a special kind of addiction, which is psychological: you cannot do without it to cope with your life, especially when you are faced with a difficult situation”, says Francis, a young man who went through a recovery process in a therapeutic community of the Association Pope John XXIII and who has chosen to share his story with In Terris.
One begins smoking joints in search of their clear identity, not found yet, inside their family, be it because of their parents’ separation, or because in a friends’ group you are treated like “a loser” if you do not do so.
“I smoked my first joint at my 14th birthday. When I told my parents about it, it was a disaster.” Francis had begun doing drugs to provide answers to questions that all too often found no answers. “But drugs are never an answer.”
He has acquired this certainty only after a long and difficult journey. For him, but also for many other young people, cannabis was only the first step towards stronger dependencies. “You smoke, you destroy yourself, losing stimuli for life and ending up in a vicious circle.” It is a catch 22 situation and it is not easy to break it. “You cannot even laugh anymore without smoking. But that world is not made of laughter, very often you find nothing but tears in it.”
“I have not stopped at cannabis, but went much further. I also made use of hard drugs and, in my experience, only a few people do not switch to other substances after their first joint.”
“It is absurd when people make statements about the harmless nature of cannabis on the news or read in newspapers – Francis explained -. It is like putting a gun in the hand of a little boy: it is clear that sooner or later someone is going to get hurt. And it is even more preposterous that there are people who want to legalize it in Italy.”
If we legalize marijuana, it will be easier – even for kids – to get it and smoke it in places that have been defined as “cannabis social clubs”, but what is even more controversial is that, if the government approves the bill on cannabis of the Senator Benedetto Della Vedova, it will become a state monopoly. And the same State is going to use the 5% of the proceeds to fund prevention programs for drug addiction.
“It makes no sense. I am not good at holding beautiful and great speeches to convince everyone that this thing is on the edge of madness – Francis said -. But I can share my life experience with the others so they do not end up in the abyss.”