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GOP Spreads Fear About Pot Legalization and Traffic Safety

The more states loosen pot laws or legalize altogether, the more congressional Republicans freak out.

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By Paul Gaita

08/11/14

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As more states continue to weigh the option of legalizing marijuana, several Congressional Republicans called for more federal regulation to rein in what they viewed as an impending disaster.

A hearing on the impact of legal marijuana on road and air travel served as a forum for concerns from Florida representative and outspoken weed opponent John Mica, who previously drew headlines for brandishing a fake joint at a hearing in May. Mica repeated the stunt by producing a device that he said was used for roadside testing in Europe and poked fun at its efficacy by offering to “swab” the hearing panelists.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) took a more strident tone, citing a study by the University of Colorado at Denver that showed an increase in the state’s traffic fatalities as evidence of the inherent dangers of legalizing marijuana.

“As marijuana is de-stigmatized, use goes up, and it finds its way into the homes and candy and cookies and baked goods, and once it gets there, it finds its way into the brains of teens,” Fleming said. Like Mica, Fleming has been prone to hyperbole; in May 2014, he told listeners of a conservative radio show that marijuana will lead to “death and destruction” among military veterans.

Countering the representatives’ comments was testimony by Jeffrey P. Michael, associate administrator for research and program development for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He stated that there was no clear connection between drug use and driving ability, underscoring recent research that drew similar conclusions.

Patrice Kelly, acting director of the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance for the Department of Transportation, drove home the point that national standards could not be created without conclusive evidence of THC levels upon impairment.

“We make policy based on science,” she said. “We cannot make changes without the science.” Fleming responded by noting that the lack of data should prompt states to exercise greater caution when considering legalization efforts.

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