Q

What makes driving under the influence of marijuana so dangerous?

A

Marijuana is a combination of dried and shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers from a plant known as Cannabis sativa, or hemp. It contains an ingredient called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that makes people feel relaxed and euphoric—high.

Marijuana is much more potent than it was in the past because growers have genetically modified the plants to increase the THC content. In fact, marijuana users can get the same amount of THC from one puff today than they got from smoking an entire joint in the 1970s.

Marijuana Impairs Driving

A driver who is high on marijuana is more than relaxed and euphoric—he is impaired. He may have significant problems with concentration and focus, judgment, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and accurately perceiving time and distance—all critical abilities for someone driving a motor vehicle.

In fact, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health analyzed data from nine epidemiologic studies to shed light on the link between marijuana use and fatal car accidents and found several disturbing trends:

  • More than 11 percent of drivers involved in a fatal accident today would test positive for marijuana.
  • Marijuana use is playing an increasing role in motor vehicle deaths—up from 4 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2010.
  • Drivers who admit to marijuana use or test positive for marijuana after a crash are twice as likely to cause a fatal car crash as drivers who do not use marijuana.

Driving While Impaired Is Illegal

If a motorist drives while under the influence of marijuana and causes a wrongful death, he can be held accountable—both in criminal and civil court.

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