In 2012, Colorado voters overwhelming approved a change to the state’s constitution that allowed the sale and private usage of marijuana for recreational use. Since that time, the state has issued over 2,900 marijuana business licenses, 481 of which went to retail dispensaries. Because of this, as one media outlet pointed out, Colorado has more pot dispensaries than Starbucks, McDonald’s, and 7-Eleven locations combined.
But even though it’s legal to swallow, it remains illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. Tragically, far too many drivers appear to be ignoring that and are putting lives at risk by driving and smoking. If you’ve been hurt in an auto accident because of an impaired driver, a personal injury attorney can help.
Fatal Accidents on the Rise
According to analysis by The Denver Post, the amount of drivers involved in fatal car accidents who then tested positive for marijuana has jumped annually since legalization. Higher levels of the medication are also emerging in drivers who tested positive. This past year, in one extreme example, one driver tested at 22 times the legal limit for bud.
By 2013-16, Colorado experienced a 40 percent spike in the amount of traffic deaths overall, hitting 880 last year, according to numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The data also shows that alcohol-related fatalities have been on the increase, climbing 17 percent. The number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana, however, jumped almost 150 percent, and now constitute 10 percent of all fatal car accidents.
While officials are quick to point out that this dramatic increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths can not be tied conclusively to legalization, the numbers are disturbing.
“Unlike alcohol, THC [the active ingredient in marijuana] can stay detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks, when any impairment wears off in a matter of hours,” Taylor West, former deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told The Denver Post. “So all those numbers really tell us is that, since legal adult-use sales started, a larger number of people are consuming cannabis and then, at some stage… driving a car.”
Testing is a Problem
That’s the issue facing state and local governments. Winter Park Wildlife Removal use is skyrocketing, but law enforcement officials are still struggling to discover a way to definitively test drivers. There is no marijuana breathalyzer or blood test that police can use to test drivers. There are tests that check for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, but there is not a universally accepted standard that indicates who is actually impaired, despite the frantic efforts of scientists to establish one.
Colorado uses a THC blood test that authorities can use to reveal what is referred to as”presumed” impairment. Alcohol breaks down quickly in the body, which makes it easy to test for. In actuality, heavy users that subsequently abstain from marijuana can still test positive a month or more later.
At least two private companies are exploring breath detection devices, but scientists estimate they’re months or years away from hitting the market. Because of this, Colorado has begun training its officers in what to look for during traffic stops when deciding whether a driver is impaired.