Editorial: Leave the pot at home

Marijuana became decriminalized in Connecticut in 2011, meaning that if anyone is caught with less than half an ounce, all they get is a ticket to pay. The problem is, many people are taking their marijuana on the road. Each week, the Wilton police blotter includes traffic pullovers that end in someone being ticketed or arrested for having marijuana or drug paraphernalia in the car.

Smoking while driving, or driving under the influence of marijuana, puts the driver, the passengers, and everyone else on the road in danger.

It took a long time for this country to recognize that drunk driving should be a criminal offense. Too often we looked the other way when someone had “one for the road.” No more.

With more states legalizing marijuana for recreational use, people may become more relaxed about using it. What people do at home is their business. What they do behind the wheel is everyone’s business.

It is hard to know whether marijuana use increases the likelihood of a car crash because there is no accurate roadside test for drug levels in the body in the way police test for blood alcohol levels when making a drunk driving arrest.

But it is known the main active ingredient in marijuana — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — affects areas of the brain that control the body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment.

We know from distracted driving studies that slowed reflexes from not paying attention can result in serious accidents and injuries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2014, 13% of nighttime weekend drivers have marijuana in their system, up from 9% in 2007. That means drivers in more than one out of 10 cars on the road with you on a Saturday night could be impaired.

Buzzed driving is no better than drunk driving. If you drink, don’t drive. If you smoke marijuana, don’t drive.

The desire to relax with a cocktail or by smoking a joint is understandable, but it shouldn’t be a fatal attraction.