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Study: Drivers who use marijuana in legal states are driving impaired

Car keys lying in marijuana

The recent passage of a bill legalizing simple marijuana possession in Virginia has reignited the debate on safety standards and how to stop people driving impaired on marijuana from causing serious car accidents.

Marijuana can be a divisive topic and there are no federal guidelines about how to tell how impaired someone is or how much marijuana a person must consume to be impaired.

When it comes to how high is too high to drive, most people agree no one should be driving down the highway smoking a joint/pipe, or after consuming an edible version, but there is little agreement on anything else.

For all the debate, it might not even matter if an impairment standard is set, as pot smokers may not be listening.

According to a new study, most people who smoke pot in states where it is legal said they have knowingly driven while impaired by it. In those states, where one can, please only try it at home as they say.

Here's what you need to know...

The truth about driving and marijuana

Marijuana has a long and combative history in the U.S.

Although recreational marijuana is legal in about a dozen states and approved for medicinal use in many more, the federal government still says civilians possessing or using cannabis is illegal. This wrinkle has made it difficult for anyone in the U.S. to conduct research on the effects of marijuana and moreover develop any uniform guidelines for consumption.

Each new study about how Americans use marijuana and the short and long-term effects of taking the drug is often illuminating.

A recent poll by "The Zebra" asked cannabis users in states where recreational marijuana is legal about their drug habits.

Here’s what they found out:

  • A whopping 59% of people who use marijuana in cannabis-legal states say that they have driven under the influence of cannabis.
  • Most drivers decide whether they can drive by asking themselves if they “feel” impaired.
  • Almost half of the stoned drivers said they could tell their driving skills weren’t as good while driving under the influence.
  • Most drivers wait 2-4 hours after using cannabis to drive, in many cases at the height of their high.
  • About 7% of pot users said they consume marijuana while driving.
  • Nearly 13% of people who use cannabis said they wait a full day or more after ingesting the drug to get behind the wheel.
  • Almost 60% of marijuana users said they ingest the drug by inhaling marijuana smoke or vapor, about 18% said they primarily consume it by eating foods, usually candies or sweets laced with the drug.
  • About one-third of marijuana users said they consume cannabis daily.
  • The most popular time to get high was in the evening and on the weekends.
  • A little over half of the people who use marijuana and drive impaired said they don’t recall any negative impacts on their driving abilities. On the flip side, 47% of weed users said they did notice a negative effect.
  • The most common negative side effects noticed by people driving high included slowed reaction time, followed by difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Staying in the correct lane and sticking to a planned route was also hard on drivers who used marijuana.
  • The most common activities to do while high were sleeping, followed by eating ("the munchies"), home entertainment (TV, music, etc.), and socializing with friends.
  • 16% of users said they regularly go to work or school under the influence of marijuana.

On your side, every step of the way

At the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC, we've seen the number of car accidents involving cannabis rise since marijuana was declared legal in D.C. and decriminalized in Maryland. We imagine the same will now happen in Virginia, now that it has been legalized.

We’ve successfully represented clients who were injured in car, truck, or motorcycle accidents by drivers who should have known they were too high to get behind the wheel.

Keep in mind that proving the driver who caused your accident was impaired by marijuana at the time of the crash is very difficult because of the lack of uniform testing protocols and standards.

Unlike drunk drivers or people who get behind the wheel high on drugs like heroin, cocaine, or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, there are not many standard test procedures or protocols for telling how impaired a person on marijuana is.

There are tests to identify if a person consumed marijuana, but the data does not reveal when it was consumed, the quantity consumed, or personal level of impairment. As using pot is becoming more popular due to the legalization and lack of stigma attached, we expect that the development will move quickly over the next several years and reach the accuracy of testing and toxicology for alcohol.

While it may be difficult to prove marijuana impairment in an accident, proving fault and finding evidence of negligence remains the same as in any case.

With 30 years of experience, attorney Stuart L. Plotnick knows how to win car accident cases in the D.C. Metro area. Before opening his own practice, Attorney Plotnick spent 10 years as a lead trial lawyer for two major insurance companies. Seeing the manipulative tactics used to cheat victims out of fair settlements convinced Attorney Plotnick to start his own law office that fights for the rights of victims.

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia area, let our law firm aggressively advocate for your best interests and fight for the compensation you're entitled to.

Contact us today for a free consultation. Our office is located in Rockville, MD and we proudly serve clients in D.C. and Virginia.

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