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  • POSTED JANUARY 09, 2019

Americans spent an estimated 15 billion hours under the influence of cannabis in 2017 and THC  is now the most commonly detected intoxicant in U.S. drivers. A result of the proliferation of medical cannabis in most states and the legalization of adult recreational use in some like California, Colorado and Washington, the number of people driving high has been increasing exponentially with no signs of slowing down.1

Though some states have remained steady, statistically speaking, since legalizing cannabis, others have shown a sharp increase in drug-impaired accidents.  One study found that the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes with trace amounts of cannabis in their systems had doubled in Washington State since legalization there. Another paper showed that THC concentration found in the blood of some of those drivers was actually lower than the legal limit set out in the legislation.2

In Canada, where cannabis is now legal for adult recreational use at the federal level, impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal death and injury. While that statistic is attributed almost exclusively to alcohol, there are signs that cannabis-impaired driving will increase with legalization, even with a zero-tolerance policy being employed for the practice.3

Law enforcement officers in the country are becoming increasingly vigilant when policing cannabis-impaired driving. New measures include maximizing the number of officers certified as drug recognition experts, issuing more field sobriety tests, completing oral fluid screening and taking blood samples from people suspected of driving high. Consequences for anyone found breaking the law include fines, criminal charges and jail time.4

Canada has spent a reported $80 million training 750 police officers to screen drivers for cannabis-impaired driving, but some critics argue that the tools being used in the process, namely human judgment, are not adequate. Because a breathalyzer similar to the one used for alcohol has yet to be approved, some people still question the efficacy and validity of roadside testing for cannabis-impaired driving.5

With steep penalties for infractions that rival those incurred by anyone caught drinking and driving, cannabis-impaired driving charges will unquestionably start to flood into judicial systems in states and countries where cannabis is legal. In answer to those rules, and the risks inherent with cannabis use behind the wheel, it’s best to make use of the Mother Against Drunk Driving’s simple slogan: arrive alive, drive sober.

1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181026105557.htm
2. https://www.livescience.com/54693-high-drivers-double-after-marijuana-legalization.html
3. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310039401 “Cannabis impairment.”
4. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/campaigns/cannabis/impairment.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc_en&utm_content=driving_3&utm_campaign=cannabis-18
5. https://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2017-2018/driving-high-is-the-test-for-weed-reliable
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