In November 2008, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program was created when voters legalized medical marijuana in a ballot measure. The legalization of marijuana not just in Michigan but also in many states throughout the country is raising complicated questions about how the drug should be regulated in regards to impaired driving. Different states that allow marijuana for recreational or medicinal use have dealt with the issue of stoned driving in different ways.
The regulation of stoned drivers has been described as an inexact science with no easy way to determine when someone is too impaired to drive. However, a personal injury attorney knows that the added risk of accidents is clear when someone has consumed THC.
Regulating Stoned Drivers
The ABA Journal indicates that both Colorado and Washington, which legalized recreational marijuana, have set a legal limit of 5 nanograms of active THC. If a person has more THC in his blood than this amount, he is considered to be an impaired driver. Oregon is considering legalizing marijuana for recreational use but unlike the two pioneer states, Oregon's ballot measure does not set a THC limit for impaired driving. This would mean that it would be left to the discretion of a law enforcement officer in order to determine if someone is too stoned to be safely behind the wheel.
There are serious concerns about whether setting a maximum THC level is the best way to actually determine whether a driver is impaired. One issue is that a British study showed that a person's THC level would peak 10 minutes after smoking marijuana but that the individual would be the most impaired around 30 minutes after smoking. Further, scientists have not yet been able to show that there is a direct connection between driving impairment and the amount of active THC in a person's body. Even a forensic lab supervisor asserts that "the concentration of THC in the blood does not correlate to the effects."
It is a problem if THC levels are not a good predictor of whether someone is too stoned to drive, because there must be a way to stop people who are high from endangering the lives of others. As the FDL Reporter indicates:
- Marijuana users must use more of their brain to perform simple tasks when they are high based on brain imaging studies.
- The reaction times of people who have used marijuana are slower, making them less able to react to read stimuli.
- A stoned driver's peripheral vision is not as good as the peripheral vision of someone who is not impaired.
- A stoned driver is not able to multi-tasking effectively.
- After legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington State, there was almost a 25 percent increase in the number of motorists testing positive for marijuana than the number of motorists who tested positive prior to legalization passing.
- Between 1994 and 2011, the share of drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in Colorado who test positive for marijuana has more than doubled.
As marijuana legalization comes to more states, there must be an effective method developed to protect motorists.
A Detroit, MI accident lawyer can help victims. Contact Fraser & Souweidane P.C. at (866) 465-9095 or visit https://www.fsattorneys.com to schedule a free consultation.