Legalization of Marijuana May Increase Rates of “Driving While High”

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Legalization of Marijuana May Increase Rates of “Driving While High”

A recent news story projected that it is likely that legalized possession of marijuana will make its way to North Carolina. Colorado and Washington already allow the recreational sale and use of marijuana, and Alaska and Oregon are planning to phase in legalization later this year. Not only this, but twenty-three states – including North Carolina – have decriminalized simple possession of marijuana or possession of marijuana for medical purposes.

Advocates on both sides have debated and will continue to debate the effects of marijuana compared with the effects of other substances such as alcohol. But even if legalization of marijuana does occur, driving while high will continue to be prohibited under the law and can result in civil liability should an accident result.

Effects of “Driving While High”

Studies are ongoing to determine the impact of marijuana use on driving behaviors. Most studies (even those in favor of the relaxation of marijuana use and possession laws) agree that marijuana consumption has some effect on a person’s driving capabilities, although the exact extent of this effect is debated. It is generally agreed that, at the very least, marijuana consumption delays a person’s judgment and reflexes. This means that it takes a person who has used marijuana a greater amount of time to react to hazards and obstacles in the road than a driver who has not used marijuana.

Is “Driving While High” Reasonable?

If a driver who has consumed marijuana causes an accident, holding the driver responsible for the injuries that result requires showing that the driver acted “unreasonably” by consuming marijuana and then driving. Some studies suggest that a driver who has ingested marijuana is liable to drive more slowly and cautiously than a sober driver. Does this mean that a driver who has consumed marijuana and then caused a crash can argue he or she drove more reasonable and thus should not be held civilly liable?

The determination of what is “reasonable” or “prudent” depends on the norms of society. While a slight majority of Americans approve of the legalization of marijuana (according to some polls), so long as the majority of Americans believe it is not reasonable or appropriate for a person to consume a substance that can potentially impair his or her judgment, a driver under the influence of marijuana who causes a crash will likely have a very difficult time convincing a judge or jury that he or she acted reasonably (and thus should not be held civilly liable for damages) by consuming marijuana and then driving.

Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law

The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability.  We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly.  Call 877-BICE-877 today or submit an online request  to get a free consultation with a  personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.

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