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AAA study questions validity of marijuana impaired driving laws

Driving While High.jpgAs we've discussed on our blog before, the way in which the individual states treat marijuana has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last decade with the drug now legal for recreational and medicinal purposes -- or both -- in many.

All indications are that this movement is only going to continue gathering momentum. If you don't believe it, consider that at least six state legislatures are currently considering some manner of legalization measure, while upwards of 11 other states could be putting the legalization question to voters this coming fall. Indeed, voters here in Florida will decide whether to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in November.

This growing acceptance of marijuana has naturally raised questions about whether impaired driving laws targeting drivers who have THC in their bloodstream are fair. For those unfamiliar with THC, it is the active ingredient in the drug that causes its psychoactive effect.

Indeed, six states currently have laws setting specific limits for the amount of THC permissible in a driver's bloodstream, much like the .08 threshold for drunk driving, while another nine states have zero-tolerance laws making any amount of THC -- or its metabolities -- in a person's bloodstream illegal.

Interestingly enough, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently released a fascinating study in which they concluded that these impaired driving laws were "flawed and not supported by scientific research," and arbitrary at best.

A big part of the problem, the study argues, is that unlike alcohol, there is really no universal and largely objective standard to measure marijuana impairment, as THC affects people differently and is metabolized by the body differently.

For example, consider that people who use the drug more frequently -- perhaps because of a medical condition -- will always have elevated THC levels. However, this does not mean that they are impaired at the time they were pulled over by law enforcement.

Conversely, someone who doesn't use the drug frequently will likely show a very low THC level, but actually be impaired -- and incredibly dangerous -- behind the wheel.

It remains to be seen how this issue will be addressed going forward, particularly in places like Florida, where we currently have neither a marijuana-specific impaired driving law nor a zero tolerance impaired driving law.  

If you've been charged with driving under the influence or any traffic-related offense, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible. 

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