Is Pot Legalization Affecting Car Accident Rates?

Is Pot Legalization Affecting Car Accident Rates?

Posted By Salvador Phillips, PLLC || Sep 27, 2017

Throughout the country the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana has gained considerable momentum and support. Today, several states have legalized marijuana for use by adults over the age of 21, and numerous others for individuals who have verifiable medical needs. In Arizona, recreational marijuana is not currently legal, but patients with qualifying conditions can legally purchase and possess up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana.

A large concern for lawmakers who have passed and are considering legalization of pot is how doing so will impact roadway safety. Driving under the influence of marijuana, after all, is considered a crime, although there has been a great deal of scrutiny over marijuana DUI laws across the country, especially when it comes to finding a reasonable means for determining when a driver is considered too high to drive.

As marijuana and driving are such prominent concerns, researchers have focused heavily on the issue. In two recently published studies released this summer, however, the results were conflicting:

  • A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which analyzed insurance claims for auto accidents between January 2012 and October 2016 found that in states where marijuana was recently legalized (Oregon, Washington, California) claim frequencies were roughly 3% higher in stated with legalized pot compared to those without. Although researchers stated that number was small, it is significant.
  • A second study published in the AJPH (American Journal of Public Health) did not find an increase in auto accident fatalities in Washington and Colorado, when compared to other states, after they legalized recreational pot. Researchers said they analyzed data from 2009 to 2015 and focused on crash rates in the first 3 years following legalization.

While there is disparity between the two studies, it is important to note that one study focused only on fatal car wrecks. This means that it is possible that while minor accidents increased slightly in states where marijuana is now legal, accidents resulting in death did not. Of course, there are many factors that may be involved in auto accidents, and it is difficult to say whether marijuana use is actually the underlying cause. This is especially true in light of studies that place distracted driving, drunk driving, and fatigue as factors that pose the greatest risks for causing car accidents.

At Salvador Phillips, PLLC, our legal team represents individuals who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes, including driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana. In Arizona, where recreational marijuana is not legal, individuals can still face severe penalties when found in possession of pot, or when there is suspicion of sales, trafficking, or cultivation. In their zealousness to crack down on drug-related offenses, law enforcement officials are also actively pursuing arrests of drivers they believe are under the influence of cannabis.

If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, including marijuana DUI, you must remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. It is your right to challenge the government’s case against you. As has been evidenced by the ongoing debate over enforcement of marijuana DUI laws across the country, shoddy science and aggressive enforcement provide ample opportunity for creating an effective defense in these cases. To learn more about your rights, defense, and what our Phoenix criminal defense attorneys can do to help you, contact us for a FREE consultation.

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