Auto crashes are on the rise in states with legalized marijuana laws. States that support the recreational use of marijuana have a higher rate of vehicle collisions and auto accident claims than states without legalized marijuana.
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Marijuana Use and Car Accidents
According to a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, there is a rise in vehicle collisions and accident claims in states where the sale of marijuana for recreational use is legal. In Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, insurance companies reported a three percent jump in claim rates. To determine if the rise in accidents and claims was directly related to legalized marijuana use, the institute compared the collision claim rates before and after legalization with the collision claim rates of comparable states where marijuana is illegal. The results showed a rise in collision claims of 4.5 percent in Oregon, 6.2 percent in Washington, and 16 percent in Colorado.
Washington and Colorado, the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use, both show increased collision and injury claim rates. Since there’s no field sobriety test to check drivers for marijuana levels, it’s difficult to prove that marijuana caused the accidents. An accident lawyer often sees impaired drivers who are high on marijuana, alcohol and other drugs or medications at the same time, especially teenage drivers.
Nevadans first voted to legalize medical marijuana use in 1998. On July 1, 2017, Nevada legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana to adults over the age of 21. Within eight months after Nevada voters legalized recreational marijuana, dispensaries and stores began popping up across Southern Nevada to sell marijuana. It’s now legal to smoke marijuana in the privacy of home, but smoking it in public places is still considered illegal. According to federal and Nevada law, marijuana use is strictly prohibited in public places. Since the legalization of marijuana in Nevada, laws have reduced penalties for possession and distribution compared to other parts of the country, but certain restrictions still apply.
Under Nevada law, it’s illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any controlled substance, including marijuana, even medically prescribed marijuana. If arrested, for a DUI, an arresting officer may request a blood test from impaired drivers to check levels of marijuana in the driver’s bloodstream. A reading of 15ng/ml or more in the urine and 5ng/ml in the blood can land a driver in jail.