Medical marijuana is on the ballot in Florida this November, and Florida may join more than 30 other states that have moved towards decriminalizing marijuana or legalizing the drug in some form. While Florida considers the possibility of making medical marijuana available to those who need it, personal injury lawyers are aware that there are some risks associated with going forward with this legislation. Safety experts have expressed significant concerns with the relaxing of marijuana laws since researchers don't yet fully understand what impact being stoned has on driver safety.
While states are having difficulty grappling with how to regulate driving under the influence of marijuana, drivers need to recognize that there is an unquestionable risk. If you consume cannabis products, you should not get behind the wheel and take the chance of hurting yourself or someone else.
Stoned Driving Has Unclear Impact on Driver Ability
USA Today reported that a spokesperson for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety believes that moving forward with legalizing marijuana in so many states is similar to trying to paint a plane as you are flying it. A contrast is drawn to regulations of alcohol-impaired driving. By the time states began making laws to criminalize driving drunk, the effects of alcohol on driver ability were well understood and researchers had been able to match levels of impairment with amounts of alcohol consumed.
Things are far more uncertain when it comes to marijuana use. Some past research has demonstrated that marijuana can cause drivers to drive more slowly and less aggressively, which may be a good thing. However, marijuana can also adversely impact a driver's peripheral vision and can also cause a driver to have impaired cognitive function and a reduced ability to effectively make decisions. All of this would mean that a stoned driver is not as safe as a driver who is sober. Further, when marijuana is combined with alcohol, it acts as a stimulant and causes further impairment.
Finding an effective way to regulate stoned driving is more important than ever, since more drivers than ever are using cannabis. A 2007 roadside study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 8.6 percent of motorists had marijuana in their systems when their vehicles were stopped. A higher percentage of drivers would likely have marijuana in their system today since laws have been relaxed in more places and marijuana has become legal in more states since 2007, including legalization in Colorado and Washington for recreational use.
Data from Columbia University's School of Public Health also revealed that the use of marijuana was a factor in just four percent of deadly motor vehicle collisions in 1999, but by 2010, it was a factor in 12 percent of deadly crashes. Some states have attempted to deal with this issue and regulate marijuana use while driving by setting limits on the amount of active THC in a person's blood, but this is not always the most effective way to legislate this issue since THC levels may not correlate with actual impairment.
Before Florida moves forward with making medical marijuana available, this issue should be addressed to keep motorists safe on the roads.
If you or a loved one is injured in a traffic accident, visit http://www.davidglatthornlaw.com or contact David J. Glatthorn at 800-990-9394 to discuss your rights. Serving Palm Beach County, suburbs of Jupiter and Wellington and all of South Florida.