Legalizing Marijuana Raises Traffic Accidents - Adamson Ahdoot LLP

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Legalizing Marijuana Raises Traffic Accidents

August 31, 2022 María López Garcia

Over 40 states have legalized medicinal cannabis, while 19 have passed recreational use

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The number of automobile accidents caused by cannabis use has increased following its legalization in some states. According to studies published by the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs, legalizing marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational use, has had a negative impact on the roads. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost a quarter of annual traffic fatalities are the result of alcohol and cannabis. In 2021, of nearly 43,000 fatal crashes, more than 11,000 were due to the effects of drugs.

The investigation conducted by researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed a progressive increase in road traffic injury and fatality data between 2009 and 2019. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada were part of the five states examined. The data was compared to Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming, states where marijuana sales and use are not yet permitted.

The study shows that legalizing marijuana has increased crash injury rates by 6.5% and fatal crash rates by 4.1%.

Studies demonstrate that legalizing marijuana has increased the number of car crashes, causing serious and catastrophic accidents.

Cannabis and Driving: A Potential Hazard

19 states have officially legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and more than 40 have passed legislation for its medicinal use. Although this is very welcome news for many, it is a measure that entails a great risk when driving. The reason? The average number of deaths caused by alcohol or cannabis while driving is 10,500 per year.

The data can be frightening, as many drivers in the United States are driving while intoxicated with cannabis, especially those under the age of 16.

According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5% of all individuals interviewed reported driving under the influence of cannabis. That is equivalent to 12 million Americans over the age of 16. However, the most alarming information comes from the youngest: 13% of the participants under 16 years of age confirmed they had driven under the effects of drugs at some point in the last 30 days.

McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, released research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence where they shared the tendency of cannabis users to drive dangerously. Specifically, the article states that intoxicated drivers hit pedestrians and exceed the speed limit more frequently. Based on a driving simulation, they also corroborated that those under the influence of drugs ran more traffic lights and crossed the center line.

All the studies share the same conclusions: marijuana use affects reaction time, concentration, visibility, and, above all, attention.

Although the data shows that drugs have a negative effect on driving, there are always exceptions. The state universities of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Iowa have conducted a study that indicates positive facts about marijuana and heavy truck accidents. The document indicates that, following the legalization of cannabis, the number of truck accidents decreased by 11%.

The Federal Government Studies Legalizing Marijuana Use

Despite the negative results offered by different investigations, the U.S. Senate will evaluate the approval of a bill that legalizes the consumption of marijuana throughout the country. Although the President himself, Joe Biden, has opposed this legalization in the past, the Senate Democratic Leader, Chuck Schumer, wants to move the initiative forward.

“Cannabis legalization has proven to be a great success at the state level, so it’s time for Congress to catch up,” said Schumer. The politician believes that it can be a beneficial project for those entrepreneurs who want to start a business in the industry. He also claims that it would give the police more resources to fight against illegal cultivation and sales. 

However, it seems that Schumer’s law plan will remain just an idea, as it does not have all the support within his party.

Does Legal Marijuana Raise Traffic Accidents?

Studies say yes. Findings by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs show that legalizing marijuana has increased crash injury rates by 6.5% and fatal crash rates by 4.1% in those states that have medicinal or recreational cannabis. Marijuana DUI offenses in Los Angeles and California can be punished by up to a $2,600 fine, up to 6 months in jail, a driver’s license suspension for up to 10 months, a 30-day impoundment of the vehicle, a drug rehabilitation program, or probation.

Citizens Speak Out: Over Half Believe It’s a Bad Habit for Society

Although there have been several reported benefits that cannabis use can offer in recent years, Americans are not entirely convinced. According to a survey conducted by Gallup, American citizens have divided thoughts on how its consumption affects society: 50% believe it is negative, while 49% think it is positive. Similarly, the percentage of Americans who claim to have ever tried cannabis is more than half. 

Among habitual marijuana consumers, 70% believe that its use is positive for individuals, while 66% believe it is good for society. 

The opinion of non-consumers is completely opposite: 62% do not believe that it has beneficial effects for the individual, and 72% consider its consumption to be a negative habit for society.

Surprisingly, 68% of all surveyed do agree with legalizing marijuana. The economic impact turns out to be a key factor: the legal market collected $25 billion in sales. Illegal sales generated around $47 billion.

Despite the fact that citizens disagree on how consumption affects people, they do agree that its use is much more beneficial than alcohol. According to another study conducted by Gallup in early August, more than 75% of Americans think that alcohol is negative for society.

Legal Consequences of Drunk Driving

While there is a breathalyzer test for all states, an official method of prosecuting drug-using drivers has not yet been determined. However, if the officer has evidence that you have been driving under the influence of marijuana, the sanction will be the same as the penalties for a DUI for alcohol. 

The police can impose sentences ranging from a $2,600 fine, up to 6 months in jail, a driver’s license suspension for up to 10 months, a 30-day impoundment of the vehicle, a drug rehabilitation program, or probation.

We Can Help 

Driving under the effects of drugs such as alcohol or marijuana is completely illegal. The consequences of drunk or drugged driving can be devastating: from a minor traffic accident to serious injury or even death.

If you, a family member, or a friend has been adversely affected by a driver’s negligent behavior, you have the right to report it. At Adamson Ahdoot, we believe that all reckless acts should be brought to justice. Our team of attorneys has more than 100 years of legal experience behind them and has achieved financially beneficial settlements for many clients.

If you had a car accident and do not know how to begin the legal process, do not hesitate to call us today at (800) 310-1606. The first consultation is completely free.

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