Marijuana Legalization: Driving While Stoned

Federal restrictions put a major cap on what researchers are able to learn about driving while stoned.

According to the New York Times, the 2016 Election Day may be a turning point for marijuana legalization around the world. Currently, there are four states that have already legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Five more states – including the state of California – will be voting on next Election Day to determine whether or not the recreational use of marijuana will be legal in these states as well.

The biggest downside to the legalization of marijuana – specifically recreational use – is public safety. Is there an increased risk of public safety by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana? Society is well aware of the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol and other recreational drugs. The question is – what happens if you drive while stoned?

Unfortunately, there are a lot more questions than answers when it comes to driving while stoned at this time.

In the video below an experiment is conducted during which three drivers are encouraged to smoke marijuana before driving on a course with a safety instructor to take control of the car as needed. Check out the experiment below.

It would appear as if heavy users/daily users are able to build up a tolerance that allows them to have more in their system before they become too impaired to drive based on the experiment in the video above.

Driving While Stoned Can Be Dangerous

The Verge reports there have been several studies conducted which have revealed that driving while stoned can be a dangerous act. The problem is – how do law enforcement officers pull someone over and then prove whether or not they are stoned?

The reason this is a problem is because traditional blood tests that work for testing your blood alcohol level are not going to work for marijuana. This, in turn, creates the following problem – exactly how much marijuana is an acceptable amount for a driver to have in their system? At what point in time is someone too stoned to drive? This is what law enforcement is and will be struggling with depending on how marijuana legalization in the other five states that will be voting on Election Day plays out.

One solution to this issue could be utilizing marijuana breathalyzers. This would work the same as a breathalyzer used to determine whether or not someone is drunk. This particular device would just determine whether or not you are stoned. It can do this by detecting whether or not there is THC in your breath. Unfortunately, there haven't been any studies or research conducted to find out how accurate these devices are at determining whether or not someone is actually stoned while driving.
The reason why there is such a struggle to find out whether or not someone is stoned while driving is because marijuana can stay in an individual's body for weeks after the time they last consumed it. This does not mean you consume some and you are stoned for weeks. It just means it takes the THC that long to get back out of your body. This means there is little to no correlation between the marijuana levels in your blood and whether or not you are currently stoned.

A judge in Colorado named Mary Celeste believes using blood tests to determine whether or not a driver is stoned will lead to a lot of false positives and create big problems.

Currently, in the state of Colorado, the legal limit before you are considered to be stoned while driving is five nanograms of THC in your blood. The issue with this law is that there is little to no evidence or research to confirm whether or not that number means the person is currently stoned or if the person was just stoned at some point in time in the last few weeks.

It would not be impossible for someone to have consumed marijuana a few weeks ago and still have five nanograms in their blood. It is also just as possible for a heavy user to build up a tolerance and not read as stoned on a blood test when they are actually stoned.

This is why most agree doing a blood test to confirm whether or not a driver is stoned is not the best solution.

Breathalyzers could work, in theory, because they should only detect THC that has been on a person's breath for the last few hours. The problem would be figuring out how to determine how much makes a person too stoned to drive without being impaired.

The only issue with this type of test would be if someone consumed an edible form of marijuana instead of smoking it. THC may or may not be on a person's breath if the person never actually smoked the marijuana.

Tests, research, and studies would need to be done to determine how accurate this type of device could be at testing whether or not a person is stoned. They would also need to figure out a way to determine whether or not this type of device would test for other forms of marijuana consumption as well.

As you can see, things are still pretty hazy when it comes to driving while stoned and how to handle it from a legalization standpoint. Only time, tests, and research will determine the best course for law enforcement officers to take when it comes to determining whether or not a driver is too stoned to be behind the wheel.

What do you think about the legalization issues surrounding driving while stoned? Share your thoughts on marijuana legalization in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Stanimir G. Stoev/ShutterStock]