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High drivers: How will marijuana laws impact EMS? News

November 15, 2012

EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

High drivers: How will marijuana laws impact EMS?

Like ethanol, there should be clear guidelines and standards to protect the public

By Arthur Hsieh

"Law enforcement officials wonder about whether the ability to buy or possess marijuana legally will bring about an increase of marijuana users on the roads."

Really? You think?

It's inevitable that EMS will see an increase of patients whose injuries or illness will be impacted by the use of legalized marijuana.

Don't get me wrong — I think it's been bad public policy to criminalize marijuana use. There hasn't been conclusive, definitive data to support its use as a gateway drug, or as a key influence in violence and other criminal activity.

Certainly there are health hazards, among them driving while under the influence.

Like ethanol, there should be clear guidelines and standards to protect the public. It'll be interesting to see the difference in driving arrests and trauma rates related to marijuana use between Washington state and Colorado, since they have developed their regulations differently.

Meanwhile, EMS professionals in those states should bone up on their knowledge of marijuana-related illnesses and side effects that could impact the routine care of their patients.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Greg Friese Greg Friese Friday, November 16, 2012 5:00:34 AM I am not convinced this is going to be a problem (or has been a problem) especially related to alcohol intoxication or mobile phone distraction.
Nick Nudell Nick Nudell Friday, November 16, 2012 5:27:52 AM I guess we'll find out once people start smoking it!
Caroline Bone Caroline Bone Friday, November 16, 2012 6:49:58 AM We will have to start ticketing pot smokers for driving under the speed limit--major hazard.
Kevin Pool Kevin Pool Friday, November 16, 2012 8:15:28 PM As if this is going ti change anything! People have been smoking pot for years. This should only cut down on the amount of tax payers money that is wasted to prosecute pot related charges.
Kenny Lowe Kenny Lowe Saturday, November 17, 2012 10:18:24 AM I love that it says EMS professionals should "bone up on the side effects of marijuana"

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