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With more states considering the legalization of marijuana comes many concerns regarding the effects its usage will have on crime and accident rates. According to the National Highway Loss Data Institute, accident rates have increased approximately 3 percent in states that have legalized the drug. Moreover, the Denver Post discovered a 40 percent increase in fatal accidents from 2013-2016. Marijuana first became legal in Colorado in 2012 and was made available for commercial sale in 2014. As such, some experts are attributing the rise in fatal accidents to marijuana consumption. Because there is no effective roadside test for marijuana intoxication, the magnitude of the issue is not fully understood, and researchers are working to remedy the issue.
Analyzing marijuana’s effect on safe driving has proven to be difficult for researchers as there is not yet an effective gauge to determine a driver’s impairment level. The most common method used to determine if a person has used marijuana is a urine test, but this test only identifies the breakdown of THC in the body which can be present weeks after use. Blood plasma tests can identify levels of marijuana in the body, however roadside blood tests would present a privacy issue. Even if this were permitted, the testing would be faulty as dosing and pattern of usage also affect impairment level. Developers are working to create a THC impairment test similar to that of a breathalyzer, which is used to identify alcohol levels in drivers.
State officials began pushing marijuana legalization in 2015 in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. Meanwhile, neighboring states waited patiently for research data to roll in on the societal impacts and health effects this legalization would cause. New Jersey was one such state that decided to wait it out. Although New Jersey politicians are desperate for a new government income stream, they also want to ensure that legalizing the drug for commercial use will not cause any ill effects on the residents such as an increase in car accidents linked back to drugged driving.
Until better scientific testing has been developed to gauge a marijuana user’s impairment, it is difficult to ascertain whether the drug can be directly linked to a rise in the number of car accidents. Currently, police rely on driver confessionals after a crash; and for fatal accidents, tests can be run to see if the driver was under the influence. The Denver Post gathered coroner data from 2016 to determine that almost a dozen deceased drivers tested positive for levels of marijuana. Most were found with levels five times higher than what the law allows.
Drugged driving could quickly become an epidemic as more lawmakers push to legalize marijuana commercially across the United States. As with any drug, it is crucial for marijuana users to practice responsibly. Individuals should never attempt to operate a vehicle if they have been drinking or are under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.
At Folkman Law Offices, P.C., we understand the emotional and financial toll a car accident injury can have on individuals and families. We fight hard to recover the maximum compensation for victims of negligence or recklessness. To arrange a free consultation with an experienced and highly skilled Cherry Hill car accident lawyer, call 856-354-9444 or submit an online inquiry. From our offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and King of Prussia, we represent clients throughout South Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area.