Since 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs, everything from crack cocaine to marijuana has been illegal in the United States. Forty years later the war on drugs has been anything but successful. These facts make it pretty clear that ridding of drugs in the U.S. is pretty much impossible.

Most law enforcement agencies still focus on the illegal trafficking using of hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, but bringing in pot smokers or those possessing pot has not been on the top of the list where crimes are concerned.

Over the past 10 years, the overall attitude toward the use of marijuana has changed drastically. When studies first showed that marijuana could be a medicinal solution to numerous health issues, many states dropped pot off the illegal list and onto a legal list for medicinal purposes.

Many Americans believe that pot is a great deal less dangerous than alcohol and various studies have backed that claim. During the elections in November, 2012 voters chose to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington as a recreational drug. Whether pot is more or less dangerous than alcohol will probably take a great deal more research.

Is Marijuana Safer Than Alcohol?

Recent studies have shown that pot is just as likely to impair judgment and motor skills behind the wheel of a car as alcohol. A study performed at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health has shown an increase in fatal accidents, nationwide, involving the use of marijuana.

Studying auto fatality statistics in California, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Illinois from 1999 to 2010 showed an increase in accidents involving marijuana. These 6 states were chosen for the study due to their constant toxicology tests given to all drivers involved in fatality accidents. This study examined more than 23,500 deaths that happened within one hour of a collision.

Their research showed that alcohol was a contributor in 40% of fatal accidents and remained the same throughout this time period. With constant ads and education showing the results of drunk driving, there has been little to no effect on those that choose to drink and drive.

Unfortunately, in 1999 16% of fatalities were blamed on drugs and grew to 28% by 2010. Co-author Dr. Guohua Li, "If This Trend Continues" believed in another 5 to 6 years, drugs will overtake alcohol as the leading contributor of death related car accidents.

This particular test does not differentiate between illegal drugs and marijuana or even legal drugs such as painkillers. The tests did show that the most common drug found in the blood streams of drivers was marijuana. In 1999 that number was only 4% and in 2010 reached 12%.

Further Research Is Inevitable:

Alcohol only remains in the blood-stream for a certain number of hours where marijuana can remain for weeks after smoking. Some studies state that 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood weren’t enough to impact drivers. These studies do not indicate that a driver is impaired from pot at the time of the accident; only that pot has been used in the recent past.

THC is the abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. This is the active ingredient in marijuana or "cannabis" which gives narcotic and psychoactive effects to the drug.

On the other hand, advocacy groups such as MADD (Mothers against Drunk Driving) back other studies that believe there is a connection between fatal accidents and the use of marijuana.

Now that more states are considering legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, more studies will be inevitable. Only time will tell at this point whether the states that have legalized marijuana's, if it is a good or bad choice.