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Marijuana-Related Road Deaths Double in Washington

May 10, 2016

Chart courtesy of AAA.
Chart courtesy of AAA.

In the state of Washington, the percentage of fatal crash-involved drivers who had recently used marijuana more than doubled after the drug became legal there, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The percentage jumped from 8% to 17% between 2013 and 2014, researchers found. The foundation examined drug tests and fatal crashes among drivers in Washington, a state that legalized marijuana in December 2012.

One in six drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana, according to the most recent data available.

Washington was one of the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The new findings raise serious concerns about drug-impaired driving at a time when at least 20 states are considering marijuana legalization this year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said in a released statement.

“The significant increase in fatal crashes involving marijuana is alarming,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Washington serves as an eye-opening case study for what other states may experience with road safety after legalizing the drug.”

Moreover, new research indicates that legal limits for marijuana and driving are arbitrary and unsupported by science, which could result in unsafe motorists going free and others being wrongfully convicted for impaired driving, the foundation said.

In an attempt to combat drug-impaired driving, some states have created legal limits — also known as per se limits — which specify the maximum amount of active THC that drivers can have in their system based on a blood test.

THC is the main chemical component in marijuana that can impair driver performance and affect the mind, and the presence of active THC is generally suggestive of recent marijuana use. These limits are similar in concept to the .08 BAC limit for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Researchers examined the lab results of drivers arrested for impaired driving, and the results suggest that legal limits for marijuana and driving are problematic because of three major reasons.

First, there’s no science showing that drivers reliably become impaired at a specific level of marijuana in the blood. Depending on the individual, drivers with relatively high levels of marijuana in their system might not be impaired, while others with low levels may be unsafe behind the wheel. This finding is very different from alcohol, where it is clear that crash risk increases significantly at higher BAC levels.

Second, high THC levels may drop below legal thresholds before a test is administered to a suspected impaired driver. The average time to collect blood from a suspected driver is often more than two hours because taking a blood sample typically requires a warrant and transport to a facility. Active THC blood levels may decline significantly and could drop below legal limits during that time.

Third, marijuana affects people differently, making it challenging to develop consistent and fair guidelines. For example, frequent users of marijuana can exhibit persistent levels of the drug long after use, while drug levels can decline more rapidly among occasional users.

“There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment, in the same manner as we do with alcohol,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research. It’s simply not possible today to determine whether a driver is impaired based solely on the amount of the drug in their body.”

AAA said it is urging states to use more comprehensive enforcement measures to improve road safety.

Rather than relying on “arbitrary legal limits,” states should use a two-component system that requires a positive test for recent marijuana use, and most importantly, behavioral and physiological evidence of driver impairment, AAA said.

This system would rely heavily on two current law-enforcement training programs: Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and the 50-state Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) program. These programs train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving.

“Marijuana can affect driver safety by impairing vehicle control and judgment,” continued Doney. “States need consistent, strong and fair enforcement measures to ensure that the increased use of marijuana does not impact road safety.”

Whether the use of marijuana is legal or not, all motorists should avoid driving while impaired, AAA stressed. Just because a drug is legal doesn't mean it's safe to use while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others on the road at risk.

Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 20 states have legalized it for therapeutic and medicinal use.

Montana and Washington have implemented a per se limit for marijuana at 5 ng/mL; Nevada and Ohio have set a limit at 2 ng/mL; and Pennsylvania’s is set at 1 ng/mL.

Twelve states have strict per se laws that forbid the presence of any levels of marijuana. In Colorado, a blood concentration of 5 ng/mL or more gives rise to permissible inference that a person was driving under the influence of the drug.

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  1. 1. scipio africanus [ May 11, 2016 @ 05:21AM ]

    Marijuana-related deaths, suspensions & problems spike in Colorado – report
    Published time: 22 Sep, 2015 04:11
    A new study of marijuana drug use in Colorado found increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths, hospital visits, school suspensions, lab explosions, and pet poisonings. The study was conducted by a federal government program.
    The 166-page report released this month analyzed the effects of legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use in Colorado spanning the time period from 2006 to the present. Along with the state of Washington, Colorado is considered as something of laboratory in which the effects of legalizing marijuana use can be studied.
    The study showed that the number of drivers testing positive for marijuana increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012, with marijuana-related fatalities doubling from 37 to 78. Traffic fatalities total around 500 a year in the state.
    One of the reports key findings was that the number of children aged zero to five exposed to marijuana increased 268 percent when comparing the period from 2006 to 2009 to the period from 2010 to 2013: triple the national average.
    The report showed that more young people aged 12 to 17 were using marijuana as well. When asked during a national survey in 2012 whether they had used marijuana in the past month, 10.47 percent of Colorado’s youth said they had, which was 39 percent higher than the national average.
    “I never dreamed in a million years that this would happen to my son,” Kendal, a parent who didn’t want to use his last name, told CBS, referring to a time when he came home to find his 13-year-old son unconscious from what he says was a marijuana overdose.
    “He was gray. His heart wasn’t beating and he wasn’t breathing,” Kendal said.
    Kendal used CPR to resuscitate him, and later talked to his son’s high school peer and supplier.
    @Drudge_Report_ Well, shoot... where'd I put my "shocked" face?
    — Weird Ralph (@weirdralph) September 21, 2015
    Marijuana-related emergency room visits grew 57 percent in two years, from 8,198 in 2011 to 12,888 in 2013, the study found, with a 29 percent increase in emergency room visits for teens.
    The report also found that drug-related suspensions and expulsions increased 32 percent between the 2008-2009 and 2012-2013 school years. The majority of expulsions were for marijuana violations.
    From 2006 to 2008, there were 1,000 to 4,800 medical marijuana cardholders and no known dispensaries in Colorado. As of the end of 2012, there were 108,000 cardholders and 532 licensed dispensaries.
    In November 2012, voters passed an amendment allowing anyone over the age of 21 to use marijuana recreationally.
    Other findings included data showing that seizures of Colorado pot being shipped out of state soared in 2014. Pot seizures increased 397 percent between 2008 and 2013. The average number of pounds seized increased 35.5 percent from 2005 to 2008 when compared to the time period from 2009 to 2013. US Mail parcels were intercepted being shipped to 33 states, representing an increase of 1,280 percent.
    Increased distribution of and access to marijuana has also led to increases in crime, lab explosions, and poisonings, according to the study. The number of pets poisoned from ingesting marijuana increased fourfold in six years, with a total of 153 cases reported from 2006 -2012.
    The report also found that the estimated annual revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana varies from $65 million to $118 million. Interestingly, the majority of counties and cities in Colorado have banned recreational marijuana businesses despite the drug being legal.
    The report was carried out by the federal government’s Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a program that assists federal, state and local and tribal law enforcement in critical drug-trafficking regions.

  2. 2. Alamo [ May 17, 2016 @ 09:02AM ]

    A clear violation of Federal Law , our ( In) Justice department considers bathroom laws more worthy of prosecution, and Federal blackmail then illegal drug use by states . It never ceases to amaze me what the Leader ( ?) of this country decides is more of a public health issue.


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