Washington made history when it legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, prompting many pro-cannabis advocates to praise the move. According to a recent study, however, the legalization may have made drivers more likely to drive while intoxicated, causing the number of motorists involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for the drug double over the years.
According to a study by the AAA, the percentage of stoned drivers involved in deadly traffic accidents in the Evergreen State went from 9 percent during the five-year period prior to legalization to about 18 percent in the five years after the legalization. To AAA’s director of traffic safety Jake Nelson, this reality has to change.
“If you’re going to use marijuana, you shouldn’t drive,” he told reporters. “And if you know you have to drive, you should not use marijuana in any shape or form.”
As the substance becomes more widely available because of the lax laws, Nelson said, the risks also increase. For locals to stay safe, he urged Washington authorities to do more to avoid cannabis-related accidents.
When discussing this new study, Washington authorities said that cannabis affects the driver’s cognitive abilities. Furthermore, they added, drivers who operate their vehicles while on cannabis often mix the substance with other intoxicants such as alcohol.
In an interview, they said that, unfortunately, they see drivers high on marijuana “every day.”
Currently in Washington, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana if the consumer has more than 5 nanograms of active THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, per milliliter of blood. This type of law, Nelson told reporters, is virtually “meaningless.”
To Nelson, law enforcement officials will only be able to effectively fight cannabis use while behind the wheel by including a two-tiered enforcement system, which would involve testing for recent cannabis consumption as well as evidence of impairment.
For more on AAA’s study, follow this link.