Is That Driver Stoned on Marijuana?

You’re driving down the road, and it’s crowded with other vehicles, cars all around. Then the thought occurs to you, “Could any of those drivers be high on marijuana?”

Maybe you thought of it because you just read an article describing how Illinois recently passed a law legalizing marijuana.  How does Illinois address the issue of marijuana and driving?

We don’t know the percentage of drivers who consume marijuana, since until recently, people could not legally use it.  Illinois currently has over 55 legal medical marijuana dispensaries, including several in Chicago.

We do know, however, that according to a Chicago Tribune article, in 2014, there were 590 marijuana arrests per 100,000 residents. Since 2,722,389 people lived in Chicago at that time, we may conclude, that the police arrest about 16,000 Chicagoans for marijuana per year.

Although we couldn’t obtain the number of people in Chicago who consume marijuana, KCON, a Portland, Oregon television station, reported that in the U.S., some 22 million people recreationally use marijuana.

From these statistics, we can guess that someone near you on the road is probably under the influence.

What difference does it make that the driver next you may use marijuana? How does that affect your safety?

According to an article on the website, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that “Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability. Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in accidents, including fatal ones.”

Another NHTSA study concluded that people who tested positive for THC, the active substance in marijuana, had a 25% greater chance of being involved in a car crash than those who had no trace of the drug in their systems. However, other factors such as ethnicity, alcohol use, age, and gender also played a role in these accidents.

The NHTSA concluded that “Caution should be exercised in assuming that drug presence implies driver impairment.”

Additionally, medical researchers find it difficult to determine from marijuana’s concentration in the blood whether or not a person can safely drive a car. This is so because, among other things, evidence of marijuana use can remain in the bloodstream for days, long after it has any effect on a person’s ability to drive.

Illinois has a zero-tolerance policy for operating motor vehicles under the influence of any illegal drug, but marijuana is now permissible when used. Nonetheless, it is still illegal to consume any amount of marijuana that impairs your ability to drive.

The obvious question is how much marijuana can you legally take and still operate a motor vehicle? Since there is no blood test that can provide the answer, the best advice I can give is to ask that question of your physician.

If a police officer arrested you for driving under the influence of marijuana even though you may legally use the drug as medicine, you need an attorney to defend you. You also might require a lawyer if you have had a motor vehicle accident with someone who consumed that substance. Your advocate may be able to help you obtain money for your injuries, pain and suffering and property damage.

Should you have any questions about driving while under the influence of marijuana, please feel free to call us at McCready, Garcia & Leet at 773-779-9885.