While users, industry leaders, and medical experts tout the benefits of marijuana use, many safety advocates have voiced concern about the potential risks of legalization. From teen brain damage to the dangers of edibles, safety advocates have continued to warn of the potential risks of recreational use. Road safety experts are now getting involved in the debate, concerned about the impact of legalization. According to a USA Today report, public safety advocates are concerned that highway rules for pot DUI are not sufficiently established, which could increase the rate of fatal accidents.
As states have paved the way for medical use and recreational legalization, federal laws have remained stagnant. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and both Washington and Colorado have legalized recreational use. There are also 16 states (and Washington D.C.), that have decriminalized the use or possession of marijuana. According to some safety experts, all of this slackening of marijuana laws makes it more likely that drivers will be smoking before getting behind the wheel. Our Orange County marijuana law attorneys are dedicated to staying abreast of legal trends and in protecting the rights of our clients. In addition to keeping our business and individual clients informed, we are also aware of the development of marijuana laws nationwide.
Safety advocates see the piecemeal development of marijuana laws as a potential threat. Without nationally established safety guideposts, it can be difficult to assess the risk until it is too late. According researchers from AAA, alcohol was much more studied and understood when it became legal. Legislators also had a better understanding of how alcohol impaired driving ability. Currently, there are not across the board standards for rates of influence. Research is mixed on how the use of marijuana impacts driving ability.
For many safety advocates in California and nationwide, the concern is that marijuana can slow decision making process, reduce peripheral vision, and generally impact awareness and reaction times. The use of marijuana in combination with alcohol can also have an impact on driver ability, and is likely to increase the rate of accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 8.6% of drivers had marijuana in their system. The agency is currently researching how state cannabis legalization impacts the rate of marijuana use on the nation’s highways. It is also completing a study of risk of drivers who use pot versus those who don’t.
The NHTSA is conducting research to understand the impact of marijuana to improve laws and safety standards. For some safety experts, this concurrent study is not enough as cities and states have already pursued and legalized marijuana. According to transportation officials in Colorado, there is no data on whether the legalization of marijuana has also led to a spike in accidents or injuries. One study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology did find a three-fold increase in marijuana related crashes over the past decade.
For law enforcement agencies, safety advocates, as well as users of marijuana, testing can be complicated. Traces of marijuana can be detected in the blood up to a week after use, even when it is no longer impairing a driver. As more states continue to legalize marijuana, it will be even more important for state and federal legislators to have a comprehensive and clear understanding of safety risks.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
More Blog Entries:
Getting Started in the Medical Marijuana Industry, May 15, 2014, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog
App Technology Highlights Future of Marijuana Business, July 9, 2014, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog