Legalization of Marijuana and Its Impact on Personal Injury Cases

Posted on 03-22-2016 by
Tags: Trending News & Topics

For decades, Colorado residents have known about the dangers of drinking and driving. However, since 2012 and the legalization of marijuana in our state, car accidents involving marijuana use have become a serious issue. Indeed, according to an article in The Washington Post, the image of the “drugged driver” has been on the minds of many drivers, law enforcement officials, and lawmakers. Yet has Colorado enacted any specific laws concerning smoking marijuana and driving, or is this still a complicated area of the law given that the drug only recently was legalized?

Proposed Zero Tolerance Policies and Marijuana Inebriation

As the article indicates, “it makes sense that loosening restrictions on pot would result in a higher percentage of drivers involved in fatal accidents having smoked the drug at some point over the past few days or weeks.” But at the same time, any large sampling of the Colorado population might show a higher percentage of individuals with evidence of marijuana in their systems. Does this mean that the drug should be regulated in the same manner as alcohol, especially when it comes to the risks of a serious car accident? After all, when a driver is inebriated from smoking marijuana and gets behind the wheel, a deadly traffic collision can happen.

Some lawmakers have proposed “zero tolerance” policies for smoking marijuana and driving. In other words, if a drug test determines that there is any trace of marijuana in a driver’s system, then that driver will be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). However, there is a major difference between drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana: traces of the latter stay in a person’s system for much longer than does alcohol, although they may not still be inebriated. To be sure, if you smoke marijuana on a particular day and do not smoke again afterward, traces of the drug can show up in your system weeks later despite the fact that you are no longer intoxicated.

As such, as the article suggests, a zero tolerance policy “would effectively ban anyone who smokes pot from driving for up to a couple of weeks after their last joint, including people who legitimately use the drug for medical reasons.”

Personal Injuries Caused by Marijuana

In short, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado means that there are more drivers on the road who have smoked recently and may be intoxicated behind the wheel. While the article notes that the total number of fatal auto accidents were on the decline in our state until just recently, there are serious car accident risks in driving while inebriated. Yet given the complex nature of determining whether a driver is intoxicated from smoking marijuana, this remains a gray area in the law.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a traffic collision caused by an intoxicated driver, a Colorado car accident attorney can help.

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