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Even Chamber’s Inflated Anti-Pot Claim Shows Marijuana Less Dangerous on Roads than Alcohol

To discourage South Dakotans from voting Yes on two to marijuana legalization measures on our November ballot, the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce says the percentage of traffic deaths related to marijuana use in leafy Colorado has increased from 15% to 25% since legalization. The Chamber cites data from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area team, a federally funded law enforcement project openly fighting marijuana legalization and known for dishing out crap stats.

According to SDPB, the Colorado Department of Safety says 8% of fatal crashes are caused by drivers high on weed.

Far be it from me to invest any energy fact-checking claims about marijuana and traffic death stats.

But if the Chamber is really worried about mayhem on the highways, we should note that 100% of highway fatalities in the past month in Hyde County* have been caused by drivers named Jason Ravsnborg. Alcohol is responsible for 29% of traffic deaths in Colorado and 30% of traffic deaths in South Dakota.

By the Chamber’s reasoning, alcohol and Jason Ravnsborg both should be illegal.

At the very least, if you are going to vote No on Initiated Measure 26 and Amendment A because of the Chamber’s worries about motorists and pedestrians who might be killed by marijuana, you should also vote No on an actual person on your ballot (Jason Ravnsborg, elector for similarly deadly Donald Trump) who has actually killed an actual South Dakotan on the highway this year.

Correction 2020.10.09 05:30 CDT: My original post erroneously referred to the neighboring four-letter county that starts with H. To the best of my knowledge, Jason Ravnsborg has not killed anyone in Hand County yet. I regret the error.


  1. Jenny 2020-10-08 15:12

    Cannabis also has no where near the overdose history like alcohol and opiods do. One would hvae to be a very very very chronic user of weed to overdoes on it alone. Most people I know use cannabis responsibly. It’s highly unlikely this will pass in deep red SD. Recreational cannabis might pass by a slim margin but not recreational.

    MN approves medical cannabis for alzheimer’s, sleep apnea and PTSD amongst several other medical diagnoses. MN would have passed recreational already if not for the republicans in the Senate. Walz supports the legalization of it.

  2. Mike Livingston 2020-10-08 18:50

    Isn’t the Chamber of Commerce an organization that promotes commerce and new business? It should be evident by now that it is not whether it will be legal it is when it will become legal.

    Seems to me that there are more pros than cons no pun intended, consider the enormous tax revenues from hemp, medical, and recreational weed, plus it would free up law enforcement go after real criminals like people who commit vehicular homicide.

    I’m sure the Judicial system would appreciate having more time to adjudicate unethical and corrupt politicians, just sayin ya know.

  3. Drey Samuelson 2020-10-08 19:53

    Jenny–it’s understandable that you’re skeptical about Amendment A’s chances, but you will be encouraged to know that the poll paid for by “No Way on Amendment A” shows that adult-use is favored by a margin of 62%-32%, and that’s THEIR poll! South Dakotans are starting to realize that people who want marijuana are going to buy it, the only question is who will they buy it from, will it be safe, will it be accurately dosed, and will the profit go to our public schools and our state’s general fund, or to illicit dealers and/or organized crime/drug cartels. Seems like an easy choice to me, and that’s why I believe Amendment A will pass…

  4. Scott 2020-10-08 20:09

    Personably I’m leaning to voting no on these 2 issues.

    If the chamber is worried about deaths, where is the chambers concern about all the covid deaths?

  5. jerry 2020-10-08 20:24

    We don’t have far to look, consider Colorado. We’re gonna need all the help we can muster to get us out of this trump recession. Perhaps with those sales, we will be able to leave much of the bar scene helping us deal with the trump virus. There will still be a need for outside food vendors to deliver the goods to residences. Instead of treating everyone like children, give us the freedom to do what we want.

  6. grudznick 2020-10-08 21:36

    So, if we pack a bunch of statutory crap into the constitution we should eliminate the legislatures because we’ll just go to Mr. H’s disgruntled direct democracy rule which would make him tremble with excitement, and also then we should never complain again about the beer swillers driving around, because we’re putting more dope heads on the streets.

    I’m just sayin…

  7. Mike Livingston 2020-10-08 23:15

    How was the temperance meeting tonight? Te he

  8. bearcreekbat 2020-10-09 10:19

    Cory, I followed the link you posted to the Chamber’s corona-virus page in response to Scott’s question: “where is the chambers concern about all the covid deaths?”

    I did a quick Google search of the linked Chamber coronavirus page for two terms, “death” and “danger” and came up with zero, zilch, nada hits for either term. If the Chamber has any objection or even concern about coronavirus deaths or dangers due to Noem’s policies, I didn’t see it.

    From what i could find on the link you gave us Scott’s point remains valid.

  9. cibvet 2020-10-09 11:03

    I voted yes for both because I’m sick and tired of paying to keep people in prison and destroying their lives for occasional use of cannabis.
    Also, finally the ONE thing that grudznick said that I find agreeable. Eliminate the legislatures. They are governor puppets anyway which makes them unnecessary.

  10. Jenny 2020-10-09 11:17

    I meant to say in my first comment above that medical cannabis might pass by a very slim margin but I would bet money on recreational not passing by 10 or more percentage points. I will push it down to 8 percentage points firm. The staunch elderly red voters will vote it out. Younger voters are not good about voting, especially when it’s kind of depressing to vote in SD where the Party Of NO runs everything.

  11. Jenny 2020-10-09 11:24

    Cory, start an election voting contest, those are fun! Who will win Presidency and by what percentage. I’m betting on Biden winning by taking all of the Rust Belt except for Ohio. Ohio is not a must win state like it used to be, it’s kind of moved over to PA as the must win state and Biden is leading by seven there.
    And of course, MN, ever faithfully Blue, will easily go for Biden, thus continuing the record of not going Red since ’72. Trump lost MN when he belted out his stupid comment “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” . That hideous insensitive comment did not go over well at all for Minnesotans. Trump is losing his reelection chances every time he opens his mouth.

  12. Drey Samuelson 2020-10-09 11:48

    Jenny–the opposition polls show that medical will pass easily, and they’re putting almost no money or effort into opposing it. It will pass easily, just wait and see. As for young voters, they’re energized by Amendment A being on the ballot (plus, the vast majority of them will vote because of their disdain for Donald Trump), so I’m not concerned about turnout. In my estimation, it’s very unlikely that Amendment A loses by 8%–in fact, I believe it’s going to pass, but not by the margin that medical will, which isn’t surprising.

  13. Jenny 2020-10-09 12:18

    I am shocked, it’s good news though,Drey. I hope Democrats and minorities aren’t turned away from the Election polls there in SD on election day. Make sure they aren’t, my fellow SD democrats!

  14. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2020-10-09 16:20

    Democrats in South Dakota claim to be for tax reform in this state. Yet, with these measures, they offer an other form of regressive taxation.

  15. Drey Samuelson 2020-10-09 16:40

    John–what’s regressive is sending people to jail, ruining their lives, all for a victimless “crime.” No one has to pay this tax if they choose not to do purchase marijuana, and it also allows them to grow marijuana plants at home, if they choose not to buy it at a dispensary.

  16. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2020-10-09 17:08

    Drey, with all due respect, and I consider you a good friend, what you are claiming is that regressive taxes don’t exist, but they do in relative terms regardless of choice. Especially, when you consider the tax inequity that already exists in this state.

    As far as the “victimless ‘crime’ issue, why doesn’t choice matter in this scenario, too?

    The legalization of marijuana is inevitable. I am on the wrong side of history if we calculate it purely on wins and losses, but I believe I am on the right side of history in terms of policy.

    A sound public policy asks why people consume alcohol or drugs. It doesn’t just say, whatever.

    Peace. ;-)

  17. DaveFN 2020-10-09 17:12

    Some very odd comments being made by Captain Tony Harrison, a former narcotics officer, from the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office in a recent KOTA news clip.

    “Now do I think that everyone who uses marijuana is going to be using methamphetamines, absolutely I do not,” says Harrison. “But I know everyone who used methamphetamine has started with marijuana. I know that because I have interviewed thousands and thousands of drug users, dealers, distributors and manufacturers over my 24 years, eight of which were spent directly in the drug office, and I have talked to them and they have told me they all started with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and then onto the next drug.”

    While none of us have the experience of Captain Harrison, most of us are nonetheless able to say with at least as much absolute certainty that not everyone who drank milk as a child gravitated to hard drugs in later life while those who did gravitate to hard drugs later on most certainly did drink milk as children.

    Difficult if not impossible to ascertain what such comments from law enforcement are trying to say by the use of such both/and logic. On one hand there appears to be a denial of so-called gateway drugs while at the same time there appears to be an affirmation of same on Harrison’s part.

    Harrison posts a 71 page document on the effects of marijuana in Colorado.

  18. TAG 2020-10-09 17:23

    Cory, are you going to put out an explainer on the ballot measures soon? I found that to be some good insight in the past, or at least some additional opinion/perspective vs. the explainer that the Argus puts out. You usually do a good job parsing out the motives behind the measures, and which items are simply trying to confuse or obfuscate the issue. Like the fake twin amendment on the predatory lending a few years back.

  19. Drey Samuelson 2020-10-09 19:46

    John–I’m not arguing that regressive taxes don’t exist, but I do believe that whatever injustice you would argue is regressive in the voluntary tax on marijuana is far overwhelmed by the injustice of putting people in jail for a victimless crime.

  20. Debbo 2020-10-09 22:07

    Dave FN, good point about the “gateway drug” argument.

    They didn’t go on to meth or opioids *because* they used weed. Maybe because they drank? Makes just as much sense as your milk argument. People use strong drugs to ease some kind of pain. If anything, that’s an argument for weed. It’s clearly not strong enough to satisfy a craving. Good.

  21. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2020-10-09 22:16

    Drey – I’m not confident that it is victimless. Legalization will mean increased usage, which will then mean increased accidents due to some, or more, being under an influence. If we legalize it, we don’t, or won’t be able to keep the current world of it going forward. I am seldom on the same side as the Chamber, but with this one, I am.

    Also, I am not a scientist or a doctor either, but you can’t tell me that twenty plus years of marijuana usage is good for ones lungs. We spent the last twenty years reducing tobacco usage in this country, but now we are planning to let this one out of the bag? No pun intended. Take care, JKC

  22. Debbo 2020-10-09 23:22

    Edibles. In addition, drinks with active THC are being formulated. Coke, of cocaine fame, is working on one.

    Anyone who smokes a lot of weed is going to damage their lungs, I agree. Most casual users are more likely to toke on weekends, or take a couple hits when they get home from work. I think damage from that is going to be minimal to zero.

    I used to smoke cigarettes, 3 packs a day. When I quit 30 years ago I was told my lungs would fully recover. They did. That tells me the average moderate weed smoker, like the average moderate drinker, doesn’t have much to worry about.

  23. cibvet 2020-10-10 00:25

    This gateway comment by Harrison is as old as time itself. The police have nothing else, so they keep throwing out the same argument.If they all started with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and then onto the next drug”, its seems he should start with alcohol, except he probably uses that himself.

  24. leslie 2020-10-10 06:57

    Rather than 71 pages by a sheriff, we have expertss:

    We immediately can recognize the unique challenges of COVID-19 for people having an addiction. Some of these are structural; the healthcare system is not prepared to take care of them. They relate also to stigma and social issues. The concept of social distancing makes such people even more vulnerable because it interferes with many of the support systems that can help them to reach recovery. And, on top of that, drugs themselves negatively influence human physiology, making one more vulnerable to getting infected and more vulnerable to worse outcomes. So that’s why there is tremendous concern about these two epidemics colliding with one another.” Norah Volkow, dir. NIDA

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-10-11 09:31

    TAG, I suppose I ought to… although with early voting, I’ve missed the boat with a lot of voters.

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