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Is smoking marijuana dangerous for drivers?

If you've been interested in the legalization of marijuana, there have been reports that have indicated the rise of marijuana in the bloodstreams of those who are driving or implicated in fatal accidents. Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, it's been found that highway fatalities are at a near-historic low, but the number of people with marijuana in their systems is on the rise. It was previously argued that having pot legalized would lead to more accidents and injuries, but they seem to be dropping. So, what's the real answer to the situation?

Interestingly, when you smoke marijuana, the residue of the drug can remain in your body for several weeks. According to the Washington Post, the same residue could affect your driving for weeks. Even low levels could increase your chances of an accident.

Initially, studies showed that more marijuana users were involved in fatal car accidents, and that's true. In fact, those involved may not have smoked any marijuana or even been intoxicated for days before the accident.

A test for post-accident metabolites won't tell the entire story, so it's important for a person's THC levels to be taken. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

A study by Clinical Chemistry for the journal of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry has argued that cannabis can be in the blood at levels that could affect driving for weeks after the last time you smoked. Others argue that the residue won't affect driving.

When you look at the statistics, you can see that roadway fatalities are down for 2014 in comparison from 2013 and the 13-year average. Out of seven of the months in 2014, five had lower amounts of fatalities than in the year prior. When you look at a chart of the highest and lowest years of highway fatalities since 2002, 2014 is the second to lowest on the list based on data from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

What the study doesn't show is how much THC the drivers in question had in their bodies or even if they were above the official threshold of 5 nanograms of THC per millimeter of blood determined legal by Washington state. Marijuana has the potential to cause chronic impairment, but it's not clear how persistent it is.

Source: The Washington Post, "Since marijuana legalization, highway fatalities in Colorado are at near-historic lows" Radley Balko, Aug. 05, 2014

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