As a ballot proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Michigan gains momentum for a 2018 vote, questions accompany the efforts. Most notably, what would the recreational use of marijuana mean for safety on Michigan highways? Could the legalization of marijuana in Michigan lead to more auto accidents?
Does Cannabis Use Cause Auto Accidents?
Michigan’s new state laws regarding medical marijuana use will go into effect in December. Community leaders are meeting and holding open forums to discuss the matter of medical marijuana dispensaries with the public. Each city, village, and township in Michigan must decide whether they are opting in or out of the medical marijuana industry. No matter how lucrative the business of legalized medical marijuana is likely to be, there are still many residents who question the safety of cannabis in other ways.
A study in the state of Washington, where recreational marijuana use is legal, suggests that the legalization of marijuana is starting to lead to more traffic fatalities. However, proponents of legalization say it is far too soon to draw definitive conclusions from the information gathered by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
“This is just one study,” says Steve Janjic, CEO of Amercanex, an electronic marketplace exchange for the cannabis industry. “Other studies have shown that those who use marijuana prior to driving were no more likely to get into fatal accidents than those who hadn’t consumed drugs or alcohol.”
A Stepping Stone to Marijuana Regulation?
THC is the active chemical found in marijuana, and the AAA study found that, over the course of a year, the number of drivers involved in fatal accidents who had THC in their system doubled (40 drivers in 436 fatal crashes in 2013 vs 85 drivers in 462 fatal accidents in 2014).
It is hard to dispute findings like this, and the concerns that are raised by the study must be addressed with government and law enforcement oversight and regulatory efforts. However, even AAA has cautioned that drawing an immediate and direct correlation between marijuana legalization and the increase in traffic fatalities should be put on pause. There is a lack of evidence about the level of impairment that marijuana use causes in individuals.
AAA recommends that their study be a guideline to help states that are looking to limit those driving under the influence of marijuana, and to teach law enforcement officials to conduct roadside tests that would accurately detect the use of marijuana.
Don’t Drive Impaired: Use Common Sense Behind the Wheel
As all people who drink must use common sense before getting behind the wheel of a car, the same applies to marijuana users. “Cannabis users do need to be aware of the effects of cannabis, take necessary safety precautions, and be sure they are not driving while impaired,” says Janjic.
With the legality of marijuana fluctuating in the state of Michigan, driving while under the influence of cannabis will become a gray issue, especially if a Michigan car accident occurs. If you have been involved in an auto accident caused by a driver who was under the influence of cannabis, or if you have been accused of causing car accidents while impaired, make an appointment with personal injury attorney David Femminineo to discuss your case.