In June, voters in Yellowstone County will be given the choice to repeal initiative 190. It would overturn the vote allowing recreational marijuana.
Billings Police Chief Rich St. John would like to see voters opt out of I190 saying recreational marijuana use is dangerous and costly. “We certainly believe the introduction of recreational marijuana is a significant problem for law enforcement and is going to exacerbate the addiction and the social problems that we’re struggling with.”
SafeMontana founder, Steve Zabawa, agrees and wants to keep recreational dispensaries out of Yellowstone County. He says although the proponents of marijuana use and sales say it’s generating millions of dollars, the facts show it is untrue. He says the dollar amount made from pot sales is much less than stated by local businesses.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said that marijuana use is especially dangerous for young people, because human brains are not fully developed until around age 25 (four years past the legal age in states that allow recreational marijuana). The adverse effects of teen marijuana use include “impaired short-term memory and decreased concentration, attention span, and problem solving, which clearly interfere with learning. Alterations in motor control, coordination, judgment, reaction time, and tracking ability have also been documented; these may contribute to unintentional deaths and injuries.” Studies show that students who use cannabis perform worse in school.
And, beyond a moral or ethical debate of pros and cons about pot use, there are facts about driving dangers when using marijuana.
Statistics from around the country support the fact that marijuana use can cause driving accidents. Marijuana-related traffic deaths rose 62% following the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that fatal crashes involving marijuana doubled after legalization in Washington. Marshall Doney, President and CEO of AAA, said, “Marijuana can affect driver safety by impairing vehicle control and judgment.”
The Highway Loss Data Institute found an increased crash risk in legal marijuana states and said collision claims in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington increased 6% as compared to states that don’t have legal marijuana.
A meta-study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) concluded that “Cannabis use prior to driving increases the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.”
A man was charged with vehicular homicide for the February 2021 death of a Billings teen. He was charged after prosecutors allege speed, marijuana use and inattentive driving led to a crash that killed the teen.
A rally of about two dozen people in favor of keeping recreational cannabis legal gathered at the Yellowstone County Courthouse on Saturday.