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More Accidents with Drugged Drivers As Medical Marijuana Use Grows

A man lights up at the Ore. pot bar.

Deadly repercussions have continued to accompany growing medical marijuana use in California. The Los Angeles Times reports on statistics showing the surging number of car accidents involving high drivers over the last decade, which local law enforcement attribute to the growing number of medical marijuana users:

"The most recent assessment by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, based on random roadside checks, found that 16.3% of all drivers nationwide at night were on various legal and illegal impairing drugs, half them high on marijuana.

In California alone, nearly 1,000 deaths and injuries each year are blamed directly on drugged drivers, according to CHP data, and law enforcement puts much of the blame on the rapid growth of medical marijuana use in the last decade. Fatalities in crashes where drugs were the primary cause and alcohol was not involved jumped 55% over the 10 years ending in 2009."

While President Obama has gone from a hands-off approach to now pushing federal prosecution of anyone in the business of growing or supplying marijuana for medical patients, the medical marijuana movement continues to pick speed as now one third of all states allow such sales. The growing legality of medical marijuana seems mind-boggling considering most states don't even have a formal standard on the amount of the drug drivers should, if at all, be allowed to have in their blood.

"While 13 states have adopted zero-tolerance laws, 35 states including California have no formal standard, and instead rely on the judgment of police to determine impairment.

Even the most cautious approach of zero tolerance is fraught with complex medical issues about whether residual low levels of marijuana can impair a driver days after the drug is smoked. Marijuana advocates say some state and federal officials are trying to make it impossible for individuals to use marijuana and drive legally for days or weeks afterward."

The call for a standardized system to judge impairment is debated by national leaders in law enforcement, as some feel the current system works well to identify impaired drivers, and any future legal limit or medical test would not bring about major change. However federal officials and local prosecutors argue that the lack of a standard makes convictions harder to obtain.

"In October, a San Diego jury acquitted Terry Barraclough, a 60-year-old technical writer and medical marijuana user, on manslaughter charges in a fatal crash that occurred shortly after he had smoked marijuana.

A blood test showed he had high levels of active marijuana ingredients in his blood, but the jury heard conflicting expert testimony from toxicologists about the possible effects.

Martin Doyle, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Barraclough, said the acquittal showed that the lack of a formal legal limit on marijuana intoxication makes such prosecutions tough."

Over 500,000 Americans currently use legal medical marijuana. Do you want to share the road with any of them?

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