VanMeveren Law Group November 2018

Foundations 9 7 0 Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis Is Legal Marijuana Causing the Rise of Deadly Accidents? November 2018

In 2012, Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use as part of Colorado Amendment 64. Previously, in 2000, marijuana was approved for medical use in the state, but it wasn’t until Amendment 64 that the marijuana industry really took off. Since then, the regulated industry has flourished in Colorado. People over the age of 21 can now easily and legally buy small amounts of cannabis. As of

2016, an individual can purchase up to 28 grams as part of one transaction, though there are many other legal specifics involved. This also doesn’t mean marijuana can be used without restraint. Some of the marijuana laws are based on laws related to the consumption of alcohol. That is to say, impaired driving is still illegal. There are a growing number of reports indicating that marijuana-related car crashes are on the rise. For instance, the number of people who got into deadly accidents while marijuana was in their system more than doubled from 2013 to 2017. Colorado has already seen a 40 percent spike in deadly car accidents across the board, leading people to search for answers as to why. In 2016, it was reported that 20 percent of all fatal crashes were related to marijuana consumption. Of course, many people used marijuana before it was officially legalized, and some people likely got into deadly accidents while under the influence before Amendment 64. But does the data suggest that legalization itself — the process of making it easier to buy marijuana and increasing the number of people using it — has led to more deadly accidents? Some would argue that’s exactly what the data shows. Others argue that the results of marijuana- related accidents cannot be truly compared to alcohol-related DUIs. When a person tests positive for alcohol and they are above the legal limit, the

alcohol is impairing that person at the moment of testing.

Marijuana, on the other hand, can stay in a person’s system for far longer. A person could have smoked or consumed marijuana a week (or longer) before, and they could still test positive — despite not being high during the accident. Because of this, the marijuana may not have had any impact on the person’s driving ability. The substance may be more commonly found in people’s systems because its use is now more widespread. A person could have used it safely at home long before operating a vehicle. The accident statistics from the past few years bring up a lot of interesting questions about marijuana legalization and driving fatalities. It’s clearly a nuanced issue and not easily resolved. We can say for sure that legalization has been great for state taxes, but public safety is a completely different matter. Regardless, it’s important to stay safe and partake in marijuana-related activities in a responsible manner. It comes down to using common sense. Like drinking and driving, you should never smoke and drive. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, marijuana-related or otherwise, give us a call. We will do everything we can to help.

–Bryan VanMeveren

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