Tag Archives: Driving Stoned

driving-stonedWith Washington and Colorado States legalizing marijuana for recreational use, law enforcement tactics are changing. Laws around marijuana have gone from a focus on prohibition to regulation. New laws are being enacted to regulate distribution, taxation, age restrictions, and how much marijuana is reasonable for a person to possess for personal use. One of the more difficult questions to answer is what constitutes legal intoxication and how that correlates to driving while impaired. How stoned is too stoned to drive safely?

Both the Washington and Colorado State Legislatures passed house bills that declare five nanograms as the legal limit for impairment. If a person is pulled over and a blood screen detects five or more nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in a person’s bloodstream, that individual is considered legally under the influence of drugs.

It can be difficult for a person to know when they are too impaired to drive whether from alcohol or marijuana. The main difference for law enforcement is the easy availability of breathalyzer tests to quantify blood alcohol levels and the relative difficulty of imposing a blood test to check for THC levels. Over time, these sorts of dilemmas will be answered by clear laws but we are not there yet. It is important to note that the body of science describing marijuana’s effects on the brain and body is broad but doesn’t enjoy wide consensus. Five nanograms per milliliter is perhaps a place for policy to start but it might be reasonable to expect changes to the law as scientific consensus is reached.

Driving while stoned is a crime in all 50 states but only some have set actual limits for THC in blood levels. It’s important to note that unlike blood alcohol levels, THC levels in the blood do not necessarily have anything to do with impairment. Marijuana is metabolized in the body’s fat cells and can be detected in the blood for as long as three months after last use in frequent pot smokers.

More than a dozen states have implemented “per se” cannabis driving laws that authorize a DUI conviction, without trial, to anyone exceeding the state’s THC blood limit. Most of those states have legal blood THC limits of zero. The federal government has not gotten on board with the decriminalization of marijuana and is still recommending that all states pass zero-tolerance “per se” driving laws.

The remaining/majority of states have effect-based laws that require evidence of impairment from recent ingestion of a controlled substance before a DUI conviction is authorized. See your state’s marijuana driving laws here.

“Per se” cannabis driving laws have not been shown to reduce traffic fatalities, and they may be inadvertently making criminals out of people who are using a controlled substance in a legal manner.

Washington State passed a “per se” driving law and more and more people are testing positive for marijuana since the substance was made legal for recreational use. It should be noted that the boost in numbers may actually be due to more blood tests rather than an increase in drug use.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!

driving-stonedAs states begin to legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, the risks of driving while stoned are increasingly being studied by the medical field and debated by lawmakers. A study in the British Medical Journal conducted by Researchers at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada found that marijuana use in subjects nearly doubles the risk of vehicle collisions. The study looked at almost 50,000 participants over nine studies on the subject. Except from alcohol, marijuana is the most common narcotic found in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. A survey found that 6.8 percent of drivers who were involved in accidents, mostly under the age of 35, tested positive for THC (the chemical found in marijuana).

Part of the problem is the perception that marijuana is safe to use while driving. There are cases where a designated driver smokes marijuana instead of drinking as a “safe” alternative. In general, there is a lot of misconception about the true effect of cannabis on one’s driving ability but it is important to note that cannabis affects everyone differently.

Facts about Driving Stoned

  • Drivers who smoke marijuana within a few hours of driving are almost twice as likely to get into an accident as sober drivers.
  • Marijuana affects reaction time, spatial sense, and perception.
  • Drivers under the influence of marijuana may follow too closely, swerve in and out of lanes,
  • make unsafe turns, or misjudge road hazards.
  • Many people deny feeling impaired in any way when they are actually stoned, whereas most people recognize when they are intoxicated from alcohol.
  • The effects of cannabis tend to wear off within three to four hours and there is nothing one can take to lessen its effects.

The reality is that there is not enough information known about the effects of specific doses of marijuana in relation to car crashes or what level of cannabis in a person’s system correlates most with crashes.

Notes about Current Marijuana Studies

Conclusions reached about marijuana use and car crashes are based on observational studies; there have been no controlled conditions imposed to look at the effects of marijuana and driving. Active metabolites of THC can be present in urine for weeks or even a month after being smoked or ingested. It is presumed that marijuana usage so long ago would not affect driving performance or collisions. The study only analyzed the nine studies where there was a recent measurement of marijuana. They also observed studies that looked at both drivers who used marijuana and those who did not to compare the collision rate.

Driving Laws for Driving While Stoned

Unlike testing for alcohol levels, researchers and law enforcement officials have not yet determined how to accurately test for levels of marijuana intoxication. Many states, however, have begun to put strict laws in place to address this public safety issue and police officers are now being trained to detect signs of marijuana use. Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs, including legally-used marijuana, is illegal in all states.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!