Cyprus Mail

Our View: Stoned drivers as just as much a danger as drunk drivers

FRIENDS of Cannabis, a group moving to have the drug legalised, said on Tuesday they were determined to resist narcotest after parliament passed legislation last week allowing police to carry out tests on drivers.

The new law would be fought on three fronts, they said: personal protection, individual legal defence, and political resistance. They plan to publish instructions on personal protection, such as mouth cleaning techniques which people can use to reduce the chance of detection and advise on when to drive before and after the peak of traceability.

They also plan a legal defence, saying that obtaining saliva is unlawful as it is genetic material and can only be obtained through a court order. There are other legal problems which may arise, such as those related to the scientific interpretation of the findings, they said. On another level, the community plans to increase awareness of the law, how to avoid getting caught and an escalation of pressure against politicians and bureaucrats.

If a group came out suggesting such actions to help drunk drivers avoid getting caught by police, most people would find it completely unacceptable so why should be any different for those who smoke pot? Cannabis may be harmless drug smoked at home or with friends but it actually impairs driving.  Also drunk drivers often have to give blood, which is also genetic material but the Friends of Cannabis have ignored that in their arguments.  The narcotest is also designed not only for catching pot smokers but people on other drugs as well. It can detect all types of substances, including cannabis, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines.

The only valid point Friends of Cannabis could make is that police, once they establish that a driver has smoked pot, could target the person later for drug offences. This is not beyond the bounds of possibility and the police, despite assurances to the contrary, could charge someone, who tests positive, for drug use. It would be difficult to argue against such action because use of cannabis and other drugs is a violation of the law. Worse still, they may treat the driver as an addict force him to undergo ‘detox’ in order to avoid prosecution. This is how many young users avoid being dragged into court.

There is another question that needs to be answered with regard to the narcotest. Is there an acceptable limit of cannabis in a person’s system, as there is in the case of alcohol, under which he or she could drive? It would be wrong if the tiniest trace of cannabis, which could have resulted from passive pot smoking, was considered to impair driving. These are the issues the Friends of Cannabis should be addressing, instead of offering advice on how to avoid detection, when everybody knows that a stoned driver is as dangerous as drunk driver.

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