State Legislatures Are Blazing A Trail When It Comes To Driving While High
DUI, a familiar term that stands for driving under the influence. Until recently it has been widely accepted that the “influence” you were under if you were charged with a DUI was alcohol. That idea is quickly becoming antiquated, however, as legalized medical and recreational marijuana are becoming the new normal all across the United States. The only states have legalized marijuana for recreational use so far are Oregon, Alaska, Washington, California, Nevada, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. These ten states will be the canary in the coal mine that other state legislators will be watching closely to see how they alter their driving laws, what penalties they institute, and which states come up with regulations that work and which ones don’t.
Weed, Alcohol, and Behind the Wheel
Driving while under the influence of alcohol is an incredibly risky behavior that claims the lives of approximately 30 people every single day. Getting behind the wheel after you have imbibed, if your blood alcohol content is over the legal limit, carries strict penalties and steep fines that are all meticulously outlined in laws held at both the state and the federal level. Buzzkill or not, these regulations and punishments are in place to save lives and minimize the safety risks that come with driving a car. Seeing a decrease in the number of fatalities and injuries that are caused each year by drunk drivers is a joint effort among everyone who shares the road. So if legislators intend to apply the rules of “driving while drunk” to the problem of “driving while high” then how will a proper sobriety level be determined? You can’t breathalyze of field test for weed in the same way that you can for alcohol.
According to federal laws, possessing, trafficking, growing, and being in possession of marijuana is forbidden here in the United States. The federal government, however, has allowed the states to pass their own laws regarding the legalization of weed for medical or recreational use. They are permitted to do so with the stipulation that they develop and put into effect a system that will regulate the plant across many different areas of the law, from preventing its distribution across state lines and prohibiting its sale to minors, to stopping the Reefer Madness era idea of driving while stoned.
Stoned and Driving in America
Colorado was the first state to legalize pot for recreational use and, financially speaking, it has given the state quite the budding economy as medical and recreational cannabis sales reached a record $1.51 billion in 2017. The sale of marijuana officially generated more revenue than 90% of all other industries in Colorado combined and the benefit of its economic output continues to grow like a weed.
Colorado has also found a way to regulate “high driving” no doubt in an effort to avoid Cheech and Chong-style scenarios from taking place up and down its highways. They have woven their Driving While High penalties into the states existing DUI regulations. The legal limit for DWH in Colorado is five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood which, to be blunt, is not all that much. Not dissimilar to the years of research that were conducted and compiled on the effects of alcohol, namely its effect on your cognitive abilities, more research is sure to be required on the cognitive effects of smoking marijuana. One thing that experts on both sides of the “Isn’t marijuana great?” debate do agree on, and that is that it is best to operate a motor vehicle with as clear a head as possible. Our only frame of reference for this sort of thing right now is drunk driving, and while alcohol affects people very differently than pot or any other drug it still offers parallels that legislators can draw from. This way they can begin building a framework for a way to make this experience as beneficial as possible for everyone involved or we risk the whole thing going up in smoke.
Our attorneys here at Los Angeles Injury Group have years of practice in helping people who have been injured by someone driving under the influence receive the financial compensation that they deserve. If you or someone that you love has been hurt by a drunk driver, you may be eligible to collect on the damages that you have sustained. If you would like to receive a free consultation with one of our licensed, reputable personal injury attorneys regarding your personal injury case, then please give us a call at 310-954-7248 and speak with someone in our Los Angeles office today.