Legalized Marijuana and The Perils of Driving High

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It seems like marijuana is becoming more and more accepted not only in America but all across the world. It’s still rather controversial, but with empirical studies and evidence to prove beneficial claims, it has come a long way. (Here is one article that explains more about the conflict and evidence.) So far, 30 states have decided to make marijuana acceptable for medical use, while nine states have chosen to make recreational use legal to anyone over 21. However, as with anything that can cause an altered state (be it weed, alcohol, or a slew of prescription drugs), it is very important to use it responsibly.

Driving High: The Facts

The National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM) shared that 25% of car accidents are caused by drunk driving. A study by the National Transportation Safety Board has revealed that marijuana use is a likely link to the increase in vehicle accidents, by up to 6%. It is worth mentioning that regardless of medical use or recreational use, it is illegal to drive under the influence.

Many wrecks, including a tragic accident that ended up killing 22 people on a church bus in Concan, Texas, involve situations where the driver was under the influence of more than one drug at the same time. In the Texas case, the 20-year-old male had taken a sedative as well as smoked marijuana. Whether the driver mixes or not, it is proven that weed tends to slow thinking and perceptual skills. Some tested drivers have shown a tendency to weave more than usual. A major issue here is that impairment seems to greatly depend on each individual.

Marijuana Field Sobriety Tests

At this time, law enforcement has no actual standardized test. There simply are no national standards. Not every state is exactly the same about how they handle people driving under the influence of marijuana, but you can generally expect the following:

  1. Some type of physical and/or mental exercise (walk a straight line, stand on one leg, etc)
  2. Saliva, blood, breath, or urine test (but these do not necessarily mean that a driver was high while driving since marijuana can stay in a person’s system for over a month)

A smart rule of thumb is just to avoid driving under the influence in the first place. Obviously, that rules out toking while driving or “hotboxing.” Sadly, within an hour of the sweeping legalization of marijuana for Canada, someone was already ticketed for driving and toking. Whatever the case, laws regarding marijuana are changing often all around America. If you are unsure about where your state stands on marijuana use and possession limits, go here. No matter what, it is important for folks to remember that even if weed is legal where they live, it is still important to be safe and follow other laws.

If you have been accused of driving high on marijuana, it would be wise to ask a defense attorney about your legal options. The legalization may have taken place, but there are still many biased viewpoints, so stigmatization could cause unfair punishment for those that choose to partake in the growing trend to embrace marijuana.