Stoned Driving: Dangers of Marijuana Use While Driving
We all know the dangers of drinking and driving. Getting behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol can put you, your passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians at risk. And driving under the influence (DUI) can cause accidents, injury, and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 29 people in the U.S. die every day in motor vehicle crashes involving an impaired driver. It is also illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more. But what about stoned driving?
With the legalization of marijuana so new, there isn’t a standard legal limit or standardized test for THC levels in a driver’s system. THC is marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient. Research on marijuana-impaired driving is still developing. There is no data that can reliably show what exact level of THC impairs driving. The effects of THC depend on numerous factors. However, it’s important to know the laws around marijuana use and the consequences of “stoned driving” or driving with THC in your system.
Legalization of Marijuana in Nevada
Marijuana, the drug that comes from the cannabis plant, was officially legalized in the state of Nevada on January 1, 2017. Nevada voters passed the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act in 2016. This Act legalized the purchase, possession, and consumption of recreational marijuana for adults 21 years and older. Medical marijuana has been legal in Nevada since 2000.
Nevada state law allows for the possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana in any 14-day period. However, marijuana still remains illegal under federal law.
With the legalization of marijuana, Nevada Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety created a “Zero Fatalities” initiative. They remind drivers to know the law. Is stoned driving legal?
- You cannot judge your own level of impairment.
- Any amount of marijuana consumption puts you at risk of driving impaired.
- Just like alcohol, if your plans involve marijuana, make sure you plan a safe and sober ride home.
- Nevada law (NRS 484C.110) specifies that drivers with 2 nanograms of active THC imply driving under the influence (DUI).
- No matter the level of THC, law enforcement officers will base arrests on observed impairment.
- Nevada law does not differentiate penalties for marijuana-impaired driving from alcohol-impaired driving (NRS 484C.400)
Should you Smoke and Drive? Marijuana Use Leads to Fatal Crashes
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety just released research on marijuana use and driving in Washington state. The report showed the percentage of THC-positive drivers doubled since recreational use was legalized in the state of Washington.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a publicly funded 501(c)(3) established in 1947. They have been conducting research and educating the public about ways to prevent crashes, prevent traffic deaths and reduce injuries.
Now that you know more about the effects of driving under the influence of marijuana, what should you do if you’re the victim in a Las Vegas car accident, and the other driver is suspected of DUI? You need an experienced car accident lawyer who also knows all of the background data about marijuana DUIs. Anthem Injury Lawyers offers this experience, so you have a better opportunity to gain the compensation you deserve as a victim. Contact our office today [(702) 857-6000] and let’s discuss your case with a free consultation.
Key takeaways from the AAA Foundation report:
Between 2008 and 2012, when marijuana was still illegal, about 8.8% of Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes were positive for THC.
- From 2008 and 2012, when marijuana was still illegal, about 8.8% of Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes were positive for THC.
- Between 2013 and 2017, once marijuana was legalized, about 15% of Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes were positive for THC.
- The average number of THC-positive drivers in Washington increased. 5 years before legalization an average 56 drivers involved in fatal crashes were THC positive. 5 years after legalization an average 130 drivers involved in fatal crashes were THC positive.
There is no way to truly test what level of THC causes driving impairment. Therefore, it is difficult to create laws around stoned driving.
Is it illegal to smoke and drive in Washington State? If you are under 21, stoned driving is illegal. If you are 21 years old or older, it is illegal to drive with 5ng/ml of THC or more in your system.
As of now, states with legalized marijuana, approach drug impaired driving differently:
- 9 states have zero tolerance for THC or a metabolite (a byproduct of THC)
- 3 states have zero tolerance for THC, but no restriction on metabolites
- 6 states have specific per se limits for THC
- 1 state has a reasonable inference law for THC. Reasonable inferences are “conclusions which are regarded as logical by reasonable people in the light of their experience in life.”
Consequences of Driving Stoned
The chance of being involved in a marijuana-related crash marijuana is significantly lower than being in an alcohol-related crash. (2017 US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report). Just because you’re more likely to get in a crash after drinking alcohol doesn’t make driving while under the influence of marijuana safe.
Marijuana affects both mind and body. These effects can be potentially dangerous if you are stoned driving. Marijuana, or THC (the main psychoactive component) can:
- Stimulate your brain to release a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine can make you feel pleasure, satisfaction, and relaxation.
- Make you feel anxious, panicked, fearful, paranoid, or disconnected with reality.
- Heighten your senses.
- Distort your sense of time.
- Impair your motor skills.
- Lower your inhibitions to make risky choices.
- Decrease your ability to focus or remember.
How Stoned Driving Can Be Dangerous
Since marijuana has a wide range of effects on the mind and body, it can be a danger when driving. Driving requires focus, attention, and calm. If you are high, you might not have the quick reflexes to notice the car in front of you suddenly slammed on the brakes. Or, with your senses heightened, maybe you slam on the brakes too much causing unsafe traffic behind you.
THC enters your bloodstream quickly. Depending on how you consumed the weed, the THC can take 30 minutes or hours for it to leave your system. If you smoked and then got behind the wheel, it is hard to know how much THC is in your system.
The effect of marijuana can depend on many factors. Method of consumption, potency, and experience level can all change the effect marijuana has on you. If you’ve never smoked before and then try marijuana for the first time, the THC could have a very strong effect on you. If you were to smoke and then drive, your motor skills could be impaired.
The other consequences of smoking and driving are the legal consequences. If you are pulled over by the police, you could get a DUI.
Remember, although marijuana is legal in Nevada, it is still illegal under federal law. If you have marijuana charges against you, you could lose your eligibility for federal financial aid. You could jeopardize your federal housing benefits if you live in federally subsidized housing. You may be rejected from purchasing a firearm.
Whether you are smoking weed or drinking alcohol, you never want to drive impaired.
Experienced Las Vegas Injury Lawyers
Looking up information on the Internet or consulting friends will only get you so far in determining if you have a valid personal injury case. If you or a loved one has been injured by an impaired driver, you should speak to a licensed Nevada personal injury lawyer. The law firm of Anthem Injury Lawyers has a dedicated team of lawyers and staff ready to help you with your car accident case. We’ve spent years protecting victims’ rights in DUI cases, and we offer specialized knowledge of marijuana DUIs. You can talk to us about your situation without incurring a fee because we offer free initial case evaluations.
Our office is conveniently located in Henderson. We work with clients all over the Las Vegas Valley, including North Las Vegas, Summerlin, Spring Valley, Anthem, and the Strip. Contact us today for a free consultation at (702) 857-6000.