Marijuana has been used for medical purposes for several millennia. As far back as 2737 B.C., marijuana was being used to treat rheumatism, malaria, pain relief, childbirth, and gout. Today, medical marijuana is used to treat a variety of conditions and diseases including seizure disorders, muscle spasms, nausea, chronic weight loss, and Crohn's disease.
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, 24 more states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. In addition to medical marijuana, some states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. At this time, D.C., Oregon, Colorado, and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Pennsylvania is one of the states that has recently adopted laws legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.
How has legalizing marijuana for medical purposes impacted drugged driving fatalities throughout the United States?
Drugged Driving, Medical Marijuana, Traffic Fatalities
Drugged driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana can impair judgment of time and distance, slow reaction time, and decrease coordination. Marijuana is the drug that is most often found in the blood of drivers tested after crashes. One study shows that drivers with THC in their system were about twice as likely to cause a vehicle crash that results in a fatality compared to drivers with no drugs in their system. However, another study states no significant increased crash risk associated with marijuana use. Most studies are definitely needed to determine the link between marijuana and traffic fatalities.
We what can look at is cold hard facts. Several sources indicate that medical marijuana is responsible for an increase in traffic fatalities. The American Auto Association (AAA) recently released a report that states that the number of drivers high on marijuana at the time of a fatal car crash more than doubled in Washington State between 2013 and 2014. Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012.
Colorado is another state that legalized medical marijuana and it has now legalized marijuana for recreational use. Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine analyzed data related to fatal car crashes before and after the legalization of medical marijuana. Researchers found that traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana significantly increased after the legalization of medical marijuana in 2009.
In a recent study released by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, researchers found that traffic fatalities related to marijuana use have since Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2014. The direction of Rocky Mountain HIDTA said someone would have to be in denial to believe that the increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities is not related to the legalizing of marijuana.
What Does This Mean for Me?
As more states legalize marijuana for medical use and/or recreational use, the number of drugged drivers will continue to rise. This puts you and your loved ones in danger every time you are on our roads. Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania; however, drugged driving is against the law. If a driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired by marijuana, the driver can be arrested for drugged driving. He or she faces criminal penalties if convicted.
However, if the driver causes a car crash while under the influence of marijuana, the driver can also be held accountable for any injuries, damages, and losses caused by the car crash. If you have been injured in a car crash with a drugged driver, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries.
Contact Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLP
Contact our DUI accident attorneysfor a free consultation. If a driver causes an accident because he or she is high on marijuana, our attorneys will help you hold that driver accountable for his or her negligent actions.