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Legalizing Marijuana – Consider The Facts Before Getting Behind the Wheel!

By Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie on November 10, 2016

California’s recent legalization of marijuana poses many questions and concerns regarding driver safety. There are many arguments, both pro and con on this controversial issue, but some of the biggest and most glaring concerns are how marijuana actually affects a driver’s ability to drive safely.

Since the State of Washington legalized marijuana in 2012, the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes (and who recently used marijuana), more than doubled. Up from 8% in 2013 to 17% in 2014, these stats are staggering as they indicate one out of six Washington drivers who were involved in fatal crashes tested positive for marijuana. After the State of Colorado legalized marijuana in 2013, another compelling statistic is traffic-related marijuana deaths increased by 48%.

The ingredient in marijuana that impairs one’s ability to function, or in this case operate a moving vehicle, is active THC. Once THC enters the blood stream it travels into the fatty tissues of the brain and disrupts key concentration, coordination, movement and memory abilities critically needed for safe driving.  Drivers under the influence of marijuana will experience difficulty maintaining attention, slower decision making and reaction times, have reduced peripheral vision, find it more difficult to stay within traffic lanes, and have a tougher time judging distance just to name a few.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen opposed legalizing marijuana, considering there is no way for measuring marijuana-impaired driving like there is with alcohol consumption. Most people regardless of age, size or race metabolizes alcohol at the same pace which is .015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAL) per hour, so every hour a person does not drink, .015 of the alcohol in your body is disappearing. Since the rate of THC metabolism varies per individual, no one can say how long someone will test positive for THC after smoking marijuana. THC can stay in the body from one week to one month depending on how often it is consumed.

As suspected and as experienced by other states, California’s legalization of marijuana comes with many potential risks to drivers and the safety of all us who travel the state’s highways. It is for this reason, our professional guidance to our clients, partners, family and friends is to “just say no” to marijuana and driving.            

If you suspect a driver is under some kind of influence of alcohol, marijuana or any other mind-alerting substance, call 911 immediately.

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Posted in: Car Accidents


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