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Ted Cruz Suggests Marijuana Rescheduling Might Lead To More People Dying In Car Crashes From Impaired Driving

U.S. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) criticized the Biden administration’s planned move of cannabis to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) during comments Wednesday at a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing, citing increases in vehicle injury and fatality rates that he attributed to the legalization of adult-use marijuana.


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Delivering remarks to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight and Ports, Cruz brought up a number of transportation-related concerns before pivoting to marijuana legalization and federal rescheduling.


“Another notable issue is drugged driving,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. “A 2022 research paper found that from 2009 to 2019, legalization of recreational marijuana was ‘associated with a 6.5 percent increase in injury crash rates and a 2.3 percent increase in fatal crash rates.’”


“And yet the Biden administration, rather than working to keep our families safe on the roadways, has instead decreed that it will reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I substance to Schedule III,” he continued. “The American Trucking Association quickly followed this news with a letter highlighting that rescheduling marijuana without an explicit allowance for a test for its use would create confusion and result in ‘serious safety impacts to safety-sensitive industries.’”


Though little else of the hearing involved marijuana, a representative of the American Automobile Association (AAA) testified that a small proportion of drivers appeared to have increased their dangerous driving behavior during the past few years, including driving after recently consuming cannabis.


AAA research, said Jake Nelson, the group’s traffic safety and research director, showed that while driving generally decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, some people actually drove more “and appeared to be riskier than average.”


“Nationally, drivers admit to engaging more regularly in behaviors like speeding, red-light running and driving within an hour of using cannabis,” he said. “Most alarming was a 24 percent increase in self-reported drunk driving.”


Cruz has been broadly critical of marijuana legalization, though he’s also said at some points that individual states should have the ability to decide how to regulate cannabis. “I think it ought to be up to the states,” he said during a 2018 debate. “I think Colorado can decide one way. I think Texas can decide another.”


At the same time, Cruz has also been critical of recommended federal guidance on alcohol consumption.


During an interview with Newsmax late last year, the senator drank a beer on camera and said federal health officials “can kiss my ass” if they decided to move forward with a plan to reduce the recommended maximum consumption of alcohol to two drinks per week.

“What is it with liberals and wanting to control every damn aspect of your life?” said Cruz, who himself supports government bans on abortion and trans-affirming healthcare. “If they want us to drink two beers a week, frankly they can kiss my ass.”


Cruz also laid into a Biden judicial nominee during a 2022 Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, asserting that the judge had been a “partisan advocate for causes,” including “legalizing potent strains of marijuana.”


The Biden administration’s drug czar said this week that the Justice Department’s rescheduling determination is “based on science and evidence,” adding that the change will ease research restrictions around the use of cannabis to treat “chronic illnesses, chronic pain and diseases like cancer.” He also suggested incorrectly that the move would allow marijuana to be prescribed by doctors.


A report published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) earlier this month said further action from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be needed before marijuana products become available by prescription.


CRS has also noted that rescheduling would not legalize cannabis or bring state-regulated markets—including medical marijuana systems—“into compliance” with federal law.

The proposed rule to federally reschedule marijuana was officially posted last week, kicking off a public comment period that’s expected to elicit a major response from supporters and opponents of cannabis reform.


Marijuana reform advocates and stakeholders have made clear that they intend to leverage the opportunity, with some planning to support the reclassification while others intend to call for descheduling cannabis altogether. Prohibitionists are expected to oppose the incremental policy change and seek to keep marijuana in Schedule I, and there’s also a looming threat of litigation.


While DOJ will take all public comments submitted by July 22 into consideration as it weighs the reform, it said in the notice that one of the topics its especially interested in hearing about is the “unique economic impacts” of the rescheduling proposal given that state-level legalization has created a “multibillion dollar industry” that stands to benefit from possible federal tax relief under the reform.


When President Joe Biden announced the administration’s rescheduling action last week, he described it as consistent with his belief that nobody should be jailed over cannabis possession. As a statutory matter, that wouldn’t necessarily apply with simple rescheduling because it’d remain federally illegal. But the White House has not publicly commented on the economic impacts of the incremental reform.

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