Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rising Concerns over Legalized Marijuana Use and Driving

Legalization of marijuana in states like Washington and Colorado has sparked the debate over marijuana use and highway safety as more states consider legalizing marijuana use. While drug experts and marijuana advocates agree that cannabis use can adversely affect your ability to operate a motor vehicle, the two groups disagree on just how much.

According to the International Chiefs of Police, tests confirming the presence of THC at the state’s toxicology lab, increased from 26 percent to 42 percent of the caseload since last year. Law enforcement officials in Colorado report that while fatalities in that state decreased 16 percent between 2006 and 2011, deaths involving drivers testing positive for marijuana increased 114 percent.

Still, those who favor any type of marijuana legalization say that one-size-fit-all state laws governing THC in the bloodstream will unfairly target marijuana users, especially medical users.

When they approved marijuana for personal use last year, Washington voters also passed a “per se” standard of 5ng/ml, subjecting anyone to arrest with THC blood levels greater than that. Most states, including California, follow the “effect-based” legal standard, meaning police and prosecutors must prove that an impaired driver had ingested marijuana by causal relationship.

A 2011 study by two American researchers showed a drop in traffic fatalities in states with medical marijuana laws. The study concluded that because marijuana is often a substitute for alcohol, users tend to consume it at home rather than traveling to commercial establishments.

While all groups involved agree that impaired driving is a valid issue, marijuana advocates point out that marijuana has been in use for decades without significant risk on the roads.

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