As legislation in many states begin to relax marijuana restrictions, there is a growing concern about how the use of the drug will affect road safety. Ohio drivers may be interested to learn that there many companies trying to create a roadside test that would be able to measure the degree of intoxication due to marijuana use.
States such as Washington and Colorado permit the recreational use of marijuana, and others voted for legalization in the November 2016 elections. However, according to a study conducted by the Automobile Association of America’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, the rate of fatal crashes in the state of Washington involving drivers who had recently consumed marijuana double after the drug was legalized.
Two road safety issues associated with the legalization of marijuana is whether the established legal limits of the drug is based on scientific data and if the methods for determining the limit are sufficient. The AAA Foundation report stated that there is no scientific data that proves drivers are impaired with blood containing a specific level of marijuana. Marijuana is processed by the body differently from alcohol, and certain level of the drug will produce varying results in different users. Despite this information, many states have established legal minimum levels of THC with no basis in science and that could contribute to the incarceration of innocent individuals.
There is currently no breathalyzer-like test that can assess the level of marijuana from the breath of a driver. However, one California company claims to have developed such a device, but it has not been tested yet.
A driver who is impaired by drugs and who is pulled over and eventually charged will in general face the same harsh consequences if a conviction is obtained as one who is pulled over for drunk driving. However, a criminal defense attorney may argue that there was no scientific basis for determining that the client was so impaired as to not have the ability to drive safely.