The cannabis industry has taken hold of many parts of the United States, including here in Portland. Marijuana is now legal in 33 states for medical use and 10 states for recreational use.
If used irresponsibly, it can carry risks, especially when users get behind the wheel. This problem is more common than you might think — at any given moment, you could be sharing the road with someone who is under the influence of marijuana.
The prevalence of impaired driving
Researchers from the University of Michigan Addiction Center conducted a survey of Michigan adults seeking to obtain medical marijuana certification or recertification in 2014 and 2015. The study found that about one in five medical marijuana patients reported driving under the influence of cannabis within the past six months.
Out of all respondents in the study:
- 56 percent said they have driven within two hours of using cannabis
- 51 percent reported that they had driven while mildly high
- 21 percent reported that they had driven while very high
According to The Verge, studies surrounding traffic accident trends in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use have shown an increase in fatalities by one additional death per one million people.
Additionally, neighboring states that haven’t legalized recreational cannabis have experienced an increase in traffic fatalities within the first six months of legalization. The fatality rate dropped back down to usual levels after the first year.
As research suggests, a temporary spike in road deaths after marijuana legalization may be due to new users being inexperienced with using cannabis. Many users may simply underestimate the potency of cannabis products before getting behind the wheel.
Holding negligent drivers accountable
Until further research is done, there is currently not enough available data suggesting that marijuana legalization has a profound impact on car accidents. There is also no current method available to determine if someone is driving under the influence of cannabis. After an accident occurs, police may be able to determine intoxication by administering a blood test.
What we do know is the THC found in cannabis can impact drivers’ motor functions, judgment, reaction time, concept of distance and time, and may even cause drowsiness.
If you or a loved one was injured in a crash with an impaired driver, contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law to discuss the legal options available to you.