Over the past decade, the use of marijuana has become increasingly common as 10 states and the District of Colombia have legalized its use. This has widely been hailed as a positive development, particularly as it allows individuals to use marijuana for medical purposes without the need for a prescription — or fear of being arrested.
Yet the use of recreational marijuana is not all good, according to experts. While it may have medicinal purposes and be fun to partake in marijuana, it still has an impact on users’ ability to drive. This can lead to an increase in car accidents, particularly in states where the use of recreational marijuana has been legalized.
As New York seeks to legalize all forms of marijuana, it is important to step back and consider how this proposal would affect our safety. A recent report demonstrates that legalization is tied to a higher rate of car accidents, which should cause us all to question whether it is a good choice for New York. Learn more from an experienced Long Island car accident attorney.
How Marijuana Impacts Car Accident Rates
In March 2017, a bus carrying people from a church crashed near Concan, Texas. 12 people were killed. The National Transportation Safety Board found that the 20-year-old driver whose truck hit the bus was under the influence of both marijuana and a sedative at the time of the accident. The Board noted that there has been an increase in the number of drivers impaired by drugs on the nation’s roadways.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released a report from its Highway Loss Data Institute that backed up this finding. The IIHS studied the effect of recreational marijuana sales on crashes that were reported to the police in Colorado, Oregon and Washington. It found that crashes are up by as much as 6% in these states, as compared to neighboring states where marijuana is not legal.
The IIHS also examined data to determine whether there was an increase in the number of car accidents before and after the legalization of marijuana in these states. It found that there was a 5.2% increase in the number of accidents once recreational marijuana became legalized. These studies controlled for other factors that could lead to an accident, such as age, location, job status and weather.
The National Institute of Health has released a study showing that drivers who use marijuana before getting behind the wheel of the car have slower thinking and perceptual skills. They also tend to weave more between lanes.
There is no easy way for police to test for marijuana intoxication, nor is there any set level of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) that would constitute a driving under the influence offense. Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in all 50 states.
The Status of New York’s Marijuana Legalization Attempts
Governor Cuomo has included a proposal in the state’s 2019-2010 budget to legalize recreational marijuana. The plan would create an Office of Cannabis Management that would oversee the creation of regulations related to marijuana legalization within the state.
All forms of marijuana would be legal under this proposal. However, New Yorkers must be at least 21 years of age to purchase and smoke the drug legally. Marijuana would be taxed, resulting in a significant financial boon to the state.
There is an opt-out provision in this proposal, which allows municipalities with populations of more than 100,000 people to opt out of allowing cannabis business licenses. These municipalities would not be entitled to any proceeds from marijuana sales. Towns and cities of under 100,000 residents cannot opt out of allowing these licenses.
Because this proposal is included in the budget, it must be passed by April 1, 2019 in order for it to be passed as part of the budget. It seems unlikely that this will occur. Instead, it will likely be voted on outside of the budget, and may not be passed during this legislative session.
The majority of New Yorkers support the legalization of marijuana. 57% of New York voters support legalization, while 38% oppose it. A majority also support clearing past criminal convictions for marijuana possessions — yet expressed concerns about legalization leading to an increase in car accidents.
Work with a Long Island Car Accident Attorney
Impaired drivers — along with distracted drivers — are one of the leading causes of car crashes in New York. If you have been hurt by an impaired driver, Winkler Kurtz, LLP can help.
Even if recreational marijuana is legalized, driving under the influence of it is still against the law. Our team of skilled Long Island car accident attorneys can help you recover the compensation you deserve to help get your life back on track. Call us today at 631-928-8000 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.