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Legalization ups fatal vehicle crashes involving marijuana users in Washington

Legalization ups fatal vehicle crashes involving marijuana users in Washington

Legalization ups fatal vehicle crashes involving marijuana users in Washington

May 17th, 2016 | ASAH Team

Marijuana use, sale, and possession are illegal in America according to the federal law, but 24 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized its medicinal use, with four of them even decriminalizing the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. As marijuana use causes disorientation and lack of physical coordination, it is not uncommon for its users to cause vehicular accidents when driving.

A recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) has revealed that the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes with indications of marijuana use has doubled since the legalization of the drug in Washington. Commenting on the findings, Jake Nelson, director, traffic safety advocacy and research, AAA, said, “Marijuana use in driving is a growing, contributing factor to fatal crashes.”

Percentage of drivers with THC in their blood goes up

The observations were made after analyzing crash details during 2010-2014 from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. It was observed that before legalization of the weed, an estimated 8.3 percent drivers were tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, in their blood. After legalization, the percentage of drivers with THC in their blood increased to 17 percent. It was also found that of the 17 percent drivers involved in fatal crashes, approximately two-thirds of them had drugs or alcohol in their gut. The number of fatal crashes had also risen, though not drastically.

The study pointed at the need for implementing strict rules to reduce the number of road accidents. Though the federal marijuana policy does not reveal much about the future of marijuana use in the country, its stand on the issue would not have any impact on the current state marijuana laws.

To alleviate the risk of those driving under the influence of marijuana, road safety laws are being amended to bring more safety on the roads. While in states like Colorado and Washington anyone caught with more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in their blood can be arrested, other states like Oregon and Alaska have no set limits, and the degree of punishment relies much on observations made by the investigating officer.

At present, no confirmed test can provide reliable information on the level of THC that can cause impairment. Though the study cannot hold marijuana use as the single reason behind accidents, it does surely point out marijuana use as one of the reasons behind fatal crashes.

6 million Americans suffer from marijuana use disorder

The authors of the study wrote, “Marijuana use disorder is common in the United States, is often associated with other substance use disorders, behavioral problems, and disability, and goes largely untreated.”

The findings need to be given their due consideration as an estimated 6 million Americans are said to be suffering from marijuana use disorder, as per a recent study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

While healthcare providers have already propounded the need for educating people about the harmful effects of marijuana and possible interventions, the need to study if marijuana use can cause fatal accidents is imperative as an increasing number of people are in favor of marijuana legalization and complete decriminalization.

Available treatment options

Addiction to anything is bad, be it weed or drug. When a person gets habituated to using substance that has adverse effects on his life, it is time to seek medical help.

If you or your loved one is grappling with addiction, you may get in touch with the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline to know about various substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-857-5777 or chat online to know about the best substance abuse rehab clinic in Arizona.

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