An article from the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) recently reported on the increase in fatal crashes that has occurred in Washington state since 2012 when it legalized recreational marijuana use. The article was published in AAA's Westways magazine, November/December 2016 edition, and was authored by Kevin James, with contributions from Rob Bhatt. The authors cite a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety which finds that the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana more than doubled, from 8 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2014. This translates to nearly 1 in 6 Washington drivers involved in a fatal crash in 2014 testing positive for active THC, the marijuana ingredient that causes impairment.
The article cites additional studies showing an increase in marijuana use among drivers as medical marijuana and recreational marijuana legalization has become more prevalent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that from 2007 to 2014, the number of nighttime weekend drivers in the United States with marijuana in their system rose nearly 50 percent.
While warning of the increase in marijuana DUI drivers, AAA also acknowledges the difficulties associated with setting a legal, or "per se," limit on the amount of active THC in one's blood that can cause impairment. AAA Foundation researches agree that unlike blood alcohol tests, there is currently no scientific way to predict impairment due to marijuana solely based on a blood test result. "There is a strong desire to create legal limits for marijuana impairment like we have for alcohol," says Kathy Sieck, senior vice president of public affairs for the Auto Club. "But it's currently not possible to determine impairment bases solely on the amount of the drug in the blood." For this reason, AAA recommends the use of officers trained to detect the behavioral and physiological evidence of impaired driving. See our Marijuana DUI page for further discussion of the problems with marijuana blood testing to determine if a driver is impaired and the use of Drug Recognition Experts to recognize the objective symptoms of "high" drivers.
You can be assured that local California law enforcement officers are well aware of studies like the one referenced above from Washington state. They are anticipating that the number of drivers with marijuana in their system is going to increase significantly in the months and years to come as marijuana becomes more accessible to the public. Patrols will increase, the number of DRE's will increase, and, as a result, marijuana DUI arrests will increase. If you have been arrested for marijuana DUI, CONTACT our office today for a free and confidential consultation. Berglund Law Office, P.C. specializes in representing persons facing DUI charges.