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Marijuana Legalization in Colorado and Impaired Driving

Possession and the use of recreational marijuana have been legal in Colorado since the passing of Amendment 64 in November 2012. And with the legalization of recreational marijuana, comes the potential for an increase in drivers who will drive while impaired. The Colorado State Patrol is stepping up their game, according to Sergeant Mike Baker (of the CSP). Sgt. Baker tells Fox 31 Denver that they have been adding Drug Recognition Experts to their team, and training their troopers to detect drug use more readily. Colorado has a blood THC limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter for motorists and Sgt. Baker notes, “If you’re driving and you’re impaired by marijuana or by anything else, you will be stopped, you will be cited, you will be arrested.”

Executive Director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, Mike Elliott, is hopeful for the new partnership between Colorado dispensaries and local law enforcement, adding, “We’ve been in open communication with them and working with them, and realize that we have the same priorities – to keep businesses secure and keep customers safe.”

While marijuana advocates like Mason Tvert, Director of Communications for SafeChoice.Org, are confident that the recent legalization will not contribute to an increase in motor vehicle accidents or impaired driving, there are some who disagree. Within a few weeks after this law was passed were reports of accidents where the drivers were allegedly under the influence of marijuana. In a recent accident in Colorado, the driver received a criminal charge of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs after crashing into 2 State Trooper vehicles.

In a driving simulation assessed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration it has been found that, after alcohol, marijuana is the most frequently detected psychoactive substance identified in arrested drivers and driving fatalities. As reported, some participants initially displayed an improved performance while under the influence of marijuana; however, this is thought to be a result of overcompensating for self-perceived impairment. For this study the most common side effects include:

decreased car handling performance, increased reaction times, impaired time and distance estimation, inability to maintain headway, lateral travel, subjective sleepiness, motor uncoordination, and impaired sustained vigilance,” with greater demands causing a more critical impairment.

While this list of common side effects isn’t exactly breaking news, it is being used as a starting point for further investigation into the topic. Currently, research is being done to assess a variety of factors including frequency of use and method of ingestion, and how these factors will affect accident and injury rates.

If you’ve suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident due to the reckless actions of an impaired driver, contact the experienced Denver personal injury attorneys at the Bendinelli Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation today. We’ll help you get the help you need.