Bob Orleck: On expected increase in pot-related roadway fatalities in Vermont

Photo courtesy of state of Vermont

As commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Thomas D. Anderson oversees state police, emergency management, forensics and fire safety, among other divisions. On Tuesday he said pot legalization would lead to an increase in traffic fatalities in Vermont.

By Bob Orleck

On Tuesday, Nov. 14, the Vermont Marijuana Advisory Commission met to discuss marijuana legalization. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson, chair of the Highway Safety Subcommittee, and Dr. Mark Levine, chair of the Education and Prevention Subcommittee, reported for their committees.

In comments made during the meeting, Commissioner Anderson said:

“I don’t speak for the subcommittee on roadway safety, I speak as the Commissioner of Public Safety, that based on my review of the research and based on my review of the studies that have been done on highway fatality deaths, that you can reach the conclusion that with the increased use of marijuana and the legalization of marijuana, there will be an increase in the roadway fatalities. The data and the research does support that.”

This conclusion by Vermont’s top law enforcement officer goes right to the heart of whether there should be legalization of any marijuana for recreational use. Government has an obligation to protect the people and not to enable their death. Enabling their death is exactly what will be happening if our legislators pass, and the governor signs, legalization of marijuana. And hard as it is to say, they will be responsible for the deaths of people. The evidence is there.

Nor does it make sense that marijuana is illegal to possess under federal law and our Legislature is considering violating that law and passing a law that they constitutionally cannot do. Other states have flouted federal law and have legalized marijuana.

Statistics are coming from Colorado and Washington, and they are showing large increases in highway fatalities related to marijuana since legalization. Vermont should wait for a few more years, set baselines for future comparisons, then wait and watch what is happening in these other states. We should also watch what the Justice Department might decide to do to law-breaking legalization states before the Vermont Legislature further considers such legalization.

Bob Orleck is a retired pharmacist and former Vermont assistant attorney general. He lives in Randolph.

Image courtesy of state of Vermont

14 thoughts on “Bob Orleck: On expected increase in pot-related roadway fatalities in Vermont

  1. We have been testing for marijuana for years in a standard urine tox screen. Besides increased traffic accidents and fatalities states that have legalized marijuana have seen an increase in their tax burden due to increased use of public assistance programs such as medicaid and EBT programs. Marijuana has cancer causing chemicals in it so in years to come there will be increased health care costs as well. Also Colorado has recently reported the death of a young child due to marijuana overdose. Do we really want these things for Vermont?

  2. Regardless of where you stand on this issue the Commission is correct. You can’t increase anything without seeing an increase in its causes. Pretty simple math.

  3. Get your head out of the sand “George”! Your Old and tired opinions do not save any lives.You apparently don’t want to acknowledge the recently publicized reports on the Bridport, or Williston accidents. As Bob Orleck noted,the Chair of the Highway Safely Committee (Thomas Anderson) has gone on record stating there will be an increase in hwy. Fatalities, and had the data to back it up. I was a Deep Sea Shipmaster for over 30 years, and saw and lived with the changes made by the USCG requiring Drug Free Certificates by prospective crew members. Made a HUGE difference and you don’t just “pass off” by saying” well they’ll do it anyway”, deal with it. Consequences?! Limitless. Death, pollution, family (Yours?) Why? So people can get “High”? Capt. Tom M

  4. Its ridiculous that legalization would change much as far as accidents. Any one who wants to smoke pot, already does regardless of the ‘law’, and they drive. They just don’t advertise it. They are already on the roads you just don’t know it. Stop spreading fear where it it not warranted.

    • That’s why I drive a great big truck. Between the drunks, drug addicts and half the driving population texting, the chances of surviving are greater with the law of gross tonnage on my side.

  5. Finally some sense. Legalization is a bad move that would consign our kids into a life of addiction. We need more poeple like this!

    • Apparently you dont realize that cannabis is not addictive. Things that ARE addictive are; sugar, wheat, prescription drugs, caffeine, and nicotine. Cannabis is not the least bit addictive. There are no withdrawal symptoms, and there are w/d symptoms for all the other substances that I mentioned.

  6. There is a CLEAR association with increased use of marijuana in states that legalize marijuana to driving fatalities. Don’t just believe me? – see Colorado (a 48% increase in 2013-2015 after 2012 legalization compared to 2010-2012) and Washington (fatalities increased 50% from 2012 to 2014).

      • See data at :
        Please also see the references they cite along with the data.
        Also, there are a total of 400-500 chemicals contained in marijuana. (Then there are the pesticides and such used by growers) and over 100 cannibinoids. THC and CBD are the most prominent. The isolated CBD component has been shown to have medicinal potential in research studies and some applications. However, the THC component has been shown to produce depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts; and increase the risk of developing mental disorders for young folks by 40%. (An easy solution for some is then to smoke or ingest more marijuana to solve this…and thus the cycle begins to perpetuate itself. ) (One in 6 people actually become addicted…some will not, while others will move on to more potent drugs in search of a better high.) THC has psychoactive properties; what has been bred genetically (GMO being a short-cut version of Mendalian genetics) by modern Marijuana businesses focus on higher THC levels for plants and derivatives (90%+) of THC as this gives folks the high and will bring them back for more. (notice that CBD is not the main focus of these businesses.) After all, a business must have customers in order to expand. Marketing to children is also occurring at a high levels in states which have legalized. After all…a business must have customers in order to expand and pull in more money.
        Remember when cigarettes were cool??? Remember when any one who was anyone smoked and ads promoted how much sexier, wealthier, “in” and more desirable anyone was smoking a cigarette? Remember the executives of Big Tobacco testifying under oath that tobacco was not addictive? Remember who reaped billions from this tobacco industry and then sought to spread this industry to poorer, less educated nations as research data on things like lung cancer began to add up? It took years before the research was in and the death toll from lung cancer and other cancers mounted before the advertising, marketing to everyone, including the most vulnerable was halted. When was the last time you saw an ad for cigarettes on TV?
        Marijuana has had very little research until recently due to the fact that many of the research methods necessary have not been developed until very close to where we are now. There are many components of marijuana whose effects have not yet been identified and research with the two that have (THC and CBD) is still in it’s infancy. The reason for this is that the components of marijuana lodge in the fatty tissues of the body…and methods for breaking down and working with substances that operate in this manner are very much still being worked on and expanded. Ever hear someone get called a fat head? Yes, the brain can be considered a fatty tissue.
        Wouldn’t you want to find out more before insisting that others be exposed to something that has all ready been proven to have ,just on the basis of it’s two somewhat researched components (CBD and THC), a two edged sword wavering between hope and betrayal when viewed separately and being sold as a whole as marijuana, with no true understanding or differentiation between the actual impact of it’s components other than the bottom line of money and greed. Why would someone want to create a “natural” product with high THC levels, or clarify the same product with hazardous chemicals to 90%+ THC, or create marketable edibles where one cannot track the actual THC levels and always regulate the rate of ingestion, certainly not by children or pets. It feels good to be free and exhilarated as one might momentarily while high on any substance, but it feels even better to find a way, as one former opiate addict said to me, to find “something you’re passionate about” and get high on life.

      • Not entirely true. Please check the toxicology reports by state for traffic accidents. Of course, those are just the ones that died. Also, when reviewing statistics which one always looks for what has changed, not only what is there, but also what is missing. Interrelationships and posits can then be made as to potential causes and the proper statistics developed in those instances where they may be lacking. For example, the ER’s of various hospitals can be a wealth of data when they have decided to coordinate to maintain actual statistics and gather data without violating privacy laws. (Ex. San Diego Death Diaries) The facts do not cease to exist when they’re hidden behind privacy laws…they are simply hidden! Other means must then be exercised to locate actual facts and actual numbers.

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