The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Driving Safety


Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, there has been much concern regarding its impact on traffic safety. Marijuana use by drivers, particularly those arrested and involved in crashes, has become an emerging issue. However, there is a bit of a gray area under California law regarding marijuana use and driving. 

While it is clear that driving while under the influence of any drug is illegal, California does not have a legal blood concentration limit for THC like there is one for alcohol. This is partly due to the fact that the compound in the drug (THC) that intoxicates people does not affect everyone the same. Therefore, it is difficult for authorities to police marijuana for traffic stops.

Unlike alcohol, THC does not explicitly show up in the bloodstream because it distributes throughout the entire body. In this case, breathalyzers are not useful tools for measuring how much of the drug is in someone’s system. And if someone’s THC level cannot be accurately measured, the evidence cannot be used as grounds for a DUI case. As a result, policing and regulating marijuana usage is difficult for law enforcement and government officials.

Because of the ambiguity behind THC measurements, various authorities have taken interest in researching how the drug impacts driving. In July of last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 127 in order to provide funding and authorization for the CHP and other law enforcements to study the effects marijuana has on driving abilities. 

Looking to the Future of Marijuana Measurements

In 2018 and 2019, the CHP investigated over 500 traffic collisions in which marijuana use was suspected to be involved. One particular company (Hound Laboratories) plans to help solve this issue by creating a dual alcohol-marijuana breathalyzer. Once lawmakers set a legal limit, this invention will be able to numerically detect impairment levels. 

In the meantime, the CHP have to rely on drug recognition experts for assistance in keeping the roads safe from all impaired drivers.

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