Fears over legalising cannabis

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By SHELLEY TOPP

A Rangiora man seriously injured in a road crash caused by an alcohol and cannabis-impaired driver believes the drug should not be legalised.

Trevor White suffered a broken sternum and other serious injuries in the crash caused when the other driver “in a borrowed car, decided to overtake on a blind corner, in fog”.

The resulting collision wrote off both cars, damaged another, and put two people in hospital.

“I was one of these, saved from death for another day,” he says.

Trevor says he is “disturbed and upset” by the New Zealand Drug Foundation’s recent high profile,”soft push” advertising campaign to support legalising cannabis in the September 19 Cannabis Control Referendum to be held in conjunction with the General Election.

“It is not a health issue, nor does the law have the ability to make things safe, ” he says. A 2017 research report by the University of Waikato’s School of Psychology for the New Zealand Transport Agency linked cannabis to an increased risk of performing unsafe driving actions. This, it was found, dramatically increased in drivers who had also consumed alcohol.

Research by the New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) concurs with this finding.

“A little-known danger with cannabis is that the impairment effects skyrocket if it is combined with alcohol or other drugs,” says Dylan Thomsen, the AA’s principal communications adviser for motoring affairs.

“Even a small amount of alcohol, plus cannabis, equals extreme risk on the roads.

“The AA has called drugged driving a silent killer on our roads because, for a long time, it flew under the public radar, despite drugs being involved in many fatal crashes.”

Trevor believes driver impairment through cannabis use will prove to be less controllable than alcohol.

The push to legalise cannabis is also at odds with the Government’s long-term goal of reducing smoking prevalence and tobacco availability to minimal levels, Trevor says.