A Ramona mother is sharing the story of her son’s death in a drugged driving crash—speaking out against a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use in California.
Proposition 64 was the center of spotlight at a summit in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The sumit, hosted by the Automobile Club of Southern California brought together experts who discussed the impact of legal and illegal drugs on traffic safety.
Laura Cupples lost her son Ryan six years ago after a crash on San Vicente Road in Ramona. The driver was the brother of Ryan's best friend who had be driving under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash.
“At about 12:15, they officially declared him brain dead, and when they did that, a part of me died too,” Cupples told NBC 7. “My husband had the horrible task of going out of the ICU to tell our two daughters that their little brother was dead and I can still hear their screams and crying.”
Now, Cupples said she wants to prevent the legalization of recreational marijuana, which she believes will lead to an increase in the number of drug-related crashes and deaths.
If approved, Proposition 64 would allow people over the age of 21 to use marijuana legally, without a prescription. Supporters of the measure say it would raise $1 billion in annual taxes that can fund drug education and treatment programs.
But opponents like the Automobile Club of Southern California, argued that fatal crashes involving drugged drivers have increased.
"Prop 64 is a gamble on the public's safety, which isn't a risk worth taking, especially when drug-impaired driving is on the rise," said Kathy Sieck, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs for the Auto Club.
Jake Nelson, director of AAA Traffic Safety, Advocacy and Research based in Washington, D.C., said that there needs to be more research before states can fully understand the impact of Prop 64.
According to Nelson, research finding by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that fatal crashes involving drugged drivers more than doubled in the state of Washington after recreational marijuana became legal.
“I think we’re playing with fire,” Cupples told NBC 7. “And the casualties are going to be our kids, our family members. And everyone always thinks ‘it’s not going to happen to me’ but in the blink of an eye it does happen to you.”
Cupples says that she’s concerned that passing Prop 64 will make marijuana more available to users—the effects of which could be a rise in drug-related crashes.
“It’s not something that goes away. Six years later, the hurt is just as bad,” she said. “And we’re constantly reminded of the things were missing out on because [Ryan’s] not here.”
Cole Casey, a criminal defense attorney has worked with DUI and drug-related cases for 20 years. He says people are already breaking the law and smoking marijuana for recreational purposes, adding that the measure would not change much.
“The people who want to smoke are already smoking,” Casey said. “What the purpose of this legislation hopefully is, and the state could sure use it, is to regulate it and tax it.”
Casey told NBC 7 that there are not necessarily more drugged drivers on the road but an increase in the number of arrests of those are driving impaired.
“Whether it becomes legal or not is going to have no impact whatsoever on whether or not more people are doing it and then driving under the influence of it,” he added.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to stand against Prop 64 on Tuesday but the decision will come down to voters heading to the November ballots.