Study Indicates "Per Se" Drugged Driving Laws Should Proceed Attempts to Legalize Marijuana


October 19, 2013

While a growing number of states are liberalizing their laws regarding possession and use of marijuana, a new study suggests that Georgia legislators should consider the potential risk on traffic safety before following this trend.  While alcohol is the leading cause of collisions involving impaired drivers, marijuana is the next most common intoxicating substance involved in impaired driving accidents.

The recent report published in Clinical Chemistry reveals that cannabinoids may remain present in the blood of chronic users of marijuana up to a month after the user begins a period of abstinence.  The authors report that these results are consistent with the observed duration of continuing neurocognitive impairment caused by cannabis.  The researchers suggest that this study supports the position that a “per se” law should be established that allows drivers to be prosecuted for impaired driving based on the concentration of metabolites of cannabis in one’s blood stream.  This type of drugged driving law would be similar to those used to prosecute drunk drivers based on a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.  The researchers point out that the use of a “per se” law for DUI offenses involving alcohol substantially improved the effectiveness of prosecutions in criminal cases against drunk drivers.

Although alcohol is the leading cause of intoxicated driving accidents, the trend toward legalization of medical marijuana, and even recreational use of cannabis in a couple states, makes it important that the law evolve to permit more effective enforcement of violations involving marijuana impaired driving.  One study revealed that almost thirteen percent of drivers admitted to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an illegal drug.  In the National Roadside Survey, more drivers indicated that they drove while under the influence of illicit drugs than alcohol.  While advocates of legalizing marijuana contend that pot does not adversely impact driving ability, the cannabis users identified in the survey were ten times more likely to be involved in a car accident than those who rarely or never used marijuana.

Although responsible use of medical marijuana may not result in more car accidents, there is no evidence to support the view that legalization of the drug under certain circumstances will not also mean that there are some users who elect to drive while impaired by cannabis.  If Georgia policymakers do decide to join the trend toward decriminalizing the use of marijuana, they may also want to consider establishing “per se” thresholds that permit a conviction for driving while under the influence of marijuana so that users are encouraged not to put others at-risk by driving while impaired.

If you or someone close to you is involved in a collision with a driver impaired by illicit drugs, the drug impaired driver may be liable for resulting injuries and property damage.  Our Georgia motor vehicle accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including cities and rural areas in the state.  No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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