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How Has Legal Marijuana Affected DUI Rates?

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How Has Legal Marijuana Affected DUI Rates?Since states first started legalizing recreational marijuana use a couple of years ago, there has been a debate as to whether the new laws have caused an increased number of impaired driving incidents in those states. Those who believe it has caused an increase will cite arrest statistics for driving under the influence charges in which the suspects had THC in their systems. Skeptics argue that the testing procedures do not definitively prove when marijuana use is responsible for impaired driving. With the recency of California’s legalization, it may take years to determine how the new law has affected DUI incidents and arrests.

Bay Area Data

The California Highway Patrol suspects that a San Jose man was under the influence of marijuana when he allegedly caused a fatal crash in Fremont in May. The CHP’s Golden Gate Division released statistics of DUI arrests involving marijuana in 2017, which was before the new marijuana law was enacted. According to the statistics:

  • 197 DUI arrests involved only marijuana;
  • 183 DUI arrests involved both marijuana and alcohol;
  • 22 of the DUI arrests involving only marijuana resulted in property damage;
  • Seven of the DUI arrests involving only marijuana resulted in injuries;
  • None of the DUI arrests involving only marijuana resulted in fatalities;
  • 24 of the DUI arrests involving marijuana and alcohol resulted in injuries; and
  • Seven of the DUI arrests involving marijuana and alcohol resulted in fatalities.

Based on data from January through mid-April 2018, the CHP speculates that there could be a 70 percent increase in marijuana-related DUI arrests this year.

Imperfect Statistics

The problem with citing past data about DUI incidents involving marijuana is that law enforcement is still determining an objective way to measure whether a driver is impaired by marijuana use. With the legalization of marijuana, there may be more drivers whose blood tests positive for marijuana use. However, traces of THC remain in the body long after the impairing effects of marijuana wear off. Past data may not have been concerned with the level of THC in someone’s blood because there was more of a zero-tolerance policy. Thus, statistics citing marijuana as the cause of a DUI are dubious, especially if alcohol was also involved.

Defense Against DUI Charges 

Driving with THC in your bloodstream does not prove that you were impaired at the time of your arrest. Without irrefutable medical evidence, the DUI charge against you becomes more subjective. A San Francisco DUI defense attorney at Burglin Law Offices can contest the claim that you were impaired while you were driving. To schedule a free consultation, call 415-729-7300.



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