July 12, 2024

Cannabis Use Disorder Is Real, Here's Who Is Being Affected

Marijuana has continued to gain global acceptance as a relatively harmless drug in the last few decades. As a result, countries are creating new laws to soften their stance against the once considered hard drug to allow for controlled medical and recreational marijuana use. Unfortunately, the loose stance against its use has led to an increase in drivers getting behind the wheel while under the influence of cannabis, which often results in accidents.

Noticeable Increase in Accidents

Statistics show the number of motorists involved in an accident that had detectable amounts of THC in their bloodstream had increased two-fold since 2018 after the legalization of marijuana in Canada. According to Dr. Jeffrey Brubacher, the University of British Columbia’s department of Emergency Medicine Associate Professor, the same is true for the United States in jurisdictions where recreational marijuana is legal.

According to the U.S National Institute on Drug Abuse Director, Dr. Nora Volkow, this development points to an emerging and important area of study. Citing a recent study on the effects of pot legalization, Volkow said there was a noticeable increase in the number of auto-crashes in the first six months following the medical legalization in Canada. Another study conducted in the U.S showed the risk of fatal collisions increases by approximately 15 percent and associated deaths by 16 percent in states where pot is legal.

Testing For Intoxication Is a Challenge

While there is no way of pinning the crashes on marijuana, there is considerable evidence linking marijuana with psychomotor and cognitive deficits, especially when the amount of THC in the bloodstream is equal to or more than 5ng/mL. These deficits affect the driver’s reaction time and concentration while on the road, leading to increased crash risk. Since there is no way of testing for marijuana intoxication on the road as there is for drunk driving, the only way to catch driving under the influence of drug offenders is after an accident. Unfortunately, by then, damages will have already been done.

“Drivers with blood THC content above the allowable limit should be held liable for the accident they cause,” said Attorney Arren Waldrep of Price Benowitz Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP. Some states in the U.S have set limits for THC concentration. While most states have set the limit at up to 5ng/ml, 2ng/ml is enough to get a driver in trouble in Canada, with statutory penalties increasing as the THC concentration increases.

Personal Responsibility Is Required

THC concentrations can be as high as 100ng/ml immediately after having a smoke and only falls to around 2ng/ml after about four hours. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing who has what concentration, and some divers may even smoke behind the wheel, significantly increasing their chances of an accident.  

According to Brubacher, stopping or minimizing the risk of marijuana-related accidents calls for personal responsibility. For example, a person should wait for at least four hours after smoking pot or eight hours after ingesting it before getting on the road. The waiting period may not be equal for all individuals. According to Brubacher, the best time to get behind the wheel is when you do not feel high.