In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64 which legalized marijuana use for recreational purposes. The law, which went into effect January 2017, allows any California citizen over the age of 21 to smoke marijuana in their private home or business without restriction. Since January, the California Highway Patrol has found that California citizens have consumed more marijuana than previous years, and found more instances of individuals driving under the influence of marijuana, aka “drugged driving.”
Driving while high
California Vehicle Code 23152(e) makes it illegal to drive a vehicle under the influence of drugs. The problem is that unlike the 0.08% blood level for alcohol, there is no presumed set number level of intoxication with marijuana in California. Since there is no set level, police cannot definitely determine if a driver has consumed a small quantity of drugs and is impaired, or if they have consumed a large quantity.
Drugged driving stats
There have been no official statistics on the percentage of users who tested positive for drugged driving, as CHP officers currently have no way of testing for marijuana consumption during routine traffic stops. In Colorado, for example, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 32% in the first year after marijuana was legalized. California has been experiencing the same increase since the beginning of the new year. Recently Joseph Brenan, a 40-year-old father of four, was changing a flat tire along I-80 near Sacramento when he was struck and killed by a motorist who had drifted onto the shoulder of the highway. The 24-year-old motorist was under the influence at the time of marijuana, and was charged with vehicular manslaughter.
Limits to driving while stoned
California legislators are trying to address the problems caused by drugged driving by proposing legislation which would set a limit on marijuana consumption similar to the 0.08% blood alcohol level limit. Other states have limits at levels of 2 nanograms of marijuana per milliliter of blood in Nevada and 5 ng/ml in Washington. California Highway Patrol Officers are also testing new technologies at traffic stops, where a saliva based swab can be tested on the driver on site, giving the officer an exact reading of how much marijuana the driver has consumed, and whether they are too drugged to drive.
Consequences of smoking and driving
Just because marijuana is legal, does not mean that it is legal to drive under the influence. Smokers should be aware that violation of the DUI of drugs law could include probation, fines, driver’s license suspension, and jail depending upon the severity of the accident and prior offenses. Accident victims should be able to recover financial compensation for their injuries.
If you or someone you know has been injured by a motorist under the influence of marijuana and drugs, contact experienced accident attorney Barry P. Goldberg today to get a free consultation, and find out how you can get an award to pay for your damages and pain and suffering.