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San Diego Health Officials, Police Warn Of Dangers Of Driving High

Kevin Sabet, founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, talks about the danger...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Kevin Sabet, founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, talks about the dangers of marijuana-impaired driving, at La Mesa Police Headquarters, Aug. 21, 2018.

A group of health officials, advocates and law enforcement officers joined forces on Tuesday at La Mesa Police Headquarters with a strong message: High Means DUI.

The campaign, a national effort to prevent marijuana impaired driving, is led by the advocacy group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). The group is touring states, including California, that have recently legalized marijuana.

“There’s a huge misconception of what marijuana can do to someone and their mind,” said Kevin Sabet, SAM's founder. “Today’s marijuana is between five and 30 times stronger than the marijuana of 20 years ago. This is genetically bread edibles, sodas, candies, ice creams that have huge amounts of THC in them.”

Sabet said twice as many drug-impaired drivers are on the roads today compared to 10 years ago.

"In legalized states where we have data, and often data is hard to come by, we’ve seen a doubling in marijauna impaired car crashes," he said.

Dr. Roneet Lev, director of operations with Scripps Mercy Emergency Department, said the dangerous trend is visible in her ER.

“We are experiencing a growing public health disaster with legalization of marijuana,” Lev said.

Lev recalled a recent head-on collision involving four patients that set off a “code trauma” in the ER. She said the alert activates a medical team of more than 10 professionals who stand ready for whatever 9-1-1 ambulances deliver to the door.

“My patient was the driver,” Lev said. “He did not realize that his visual perception was impaired, that his reaction time was delayed, that he was not alert and he was swerving. He also didn’t realize that he almost killed four people including himself.”

La Mesa Police Lt. Brian Stoney said his force has seen a spike in the number of marijuana-impaired drivers.

“Whether the drug is legally prescribed marijuana — both recreational and medicinal, or illegal drugs — driving under the influence of drugs poses a threat to the driver, their passengers and all of the other people who use our roadways,” Stoney said.

In addition to launching the “High Means DUI” campaign, the group is urging tougher laws, policies and enforcement that ensure consistency in conviction rates, sentences and treatment for cases of impaired driving, whether it’s alcohol, drugs or a combination of both.

“Today’s marijuana is between 5 and 30 times stronger than the marijuana of 20 years ago," said Kevin Sabet, founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

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