Pot’s Semi-Legal Status In U.S. Raises Drugged Driving Questions

It is worth noting, however, that if passed, Utah’s rules for medical marijuana would be the most restrictive of all states where the drug is legal. You can read more about that on the website ProCon.org. The changing legality of pot in the U.S. is prompting significant discussion not just about drug charges related to marijuana possession, but about rates of drugged driving as well.

Regardless of whether or not marijuana use is legal in a given state, it remains illegal to drive while high. But as pot has become legal or semi-legal in more parts of the country, drugged driving rates have risen as well.

There are two concerns about marijuana-related drugged driving that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later. First, researchers seem to agree that marijuana does make driving more dangerous, but specific data seems to be lacking. At what level of THC in the body does a marijuana user become too high to drive safely? How can we account for the various levels of potency among marijuana products? Given that THC stays in the body longer than alcohol, how might this affect our ability to measure impairment?

The second concern is testing for impairment “in the field.” Law enforcement agencies have a portable and fairly reliable tool for measuring alcohol intoxication in drivers: the breathalyzer. There is not yet a reliable equivalent for marijuana impairment – at least not one that is widely available.

Even if marijuana suddenly became legal in every state, these questions and concerns about drugged driving would persist. After all, drunk driving remains a major problem for law enforcement agencies and safety advocates. But as more Americans continue to change their opinions on whether pot should be legal, these questions and uncertainties will become even more pressing. 

Source: National Public Radio, “No Easy Answers For DUI Concerns As Marijuana Gains Support,” Feb. 23, 2014