As a Seattle DUI accident attorney, I know that most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. However, with Washington being one of a number of states that has passed a law allowing the medical use of marijuana, and with voters deciding on a possible law regarding recreational marijuana, the issue of driving under the influence of marijuana may become a more important one. KING 5 carried an AP report from Colorado, which also has a medical marijuana law, about this issue. Angeline Chilton of Denver, who uses medical marijuana to control symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, says that she never drives right after using marijuana, but that because she uses it for her MS, THC is always in her system. Before using the medical marijuana, the tremors caused by MS were so severe that she was unable to drive. The article points out that marijuana, unlike alcohol, remains in the blood for quite a long time after the impairment from the drug wears off. For this reason, testing for driving under the influence of marijuana is not like testing for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Scientists have been working on an easy way to test for impairment from marijuana, but do not have that ability yet. According to Dr. Marilyn Huestis of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers are working on developing a saliva test to determine recent marijuana use. There has been a lot of debate recently over how to deal with this issue, with a lot of the debate stemming from the fact that there just isn’t that much research data from which to draw.
What is clear from the data that has been gathered is that driving while under the influence of marijuana can be dangerous, potentially leading to very serious accidents. Like any other prescription medication, the fact that the marijuana that caused a driver’s impairment was medical in nature does not release that driver from the obligation to be safe behind the wheel.