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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

It's been just over a week since citizens of Washington and Colorado went to the polls to legalize recreational use of marijuana. The question of how to regulate drivers under the influence of the drug has become a major concern. Officials in Colorado and Washington are worried about an increase in car crashes related to marijuana.

Washington’s marijuana law sets a new blood-test limit for marijuana, which police have already begun training for enforcement of the new limit; although some lawyers are preparing to challenge it. However, in Colorado, the new marijuana law does not make any alterations to the state’s driving-under-the-influence laws, according to the Associated Press.

“We’ve had decades of studies and experience with alcohol,” Washington State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon told the AP. “Marijuana is new, so it’s going to take some time to figure out how the courts and prosecutors are going to handle it. But the key is impairment: We will arrest drivers who drive impaired, whether it be drugs or alcohol.”

Driving under the influence of marijuana is associated with an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash, especially for fatal collisions, according to an analysis of studies published earlier this year. Driving under the influence of marijuana was associated with almost twice the risk of a motor vehicle crash compared with unimpaired driving. The studies in the analysis included nearly 50,000 people.

Betty Aldworth, Outreach Director for Colorado’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which advocated for the state’s new law, said there is disagreement about how much THC, causes impairment while driving. Marijuana affects people in different ways which makes setting a legal limit more difficult than alcohol.  

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