According to research data, the sale of legal marijuana has increased to $6.6 billion in 2016. That includes $4.7 billion in the sale of medical marijuana and $1.9 billion for recreational marijuana. It is predicted that, by 2025, sales will exceed $24 billion. Five years ago, the sale of recreational marijuana was not legal anywhere in the United States. That is no longer the case. Our Joplin accident attorneys will discuss what that means for smoking and driving or DUI accidents.
The current state of legalized marijuana laws in the country
Medical marijuana has been legalized in 29 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. In 2014, recreational marijuana (not prescribed by a physician) was legalized in Colorado and Washington. Oregon passed a similar law in 2015 and Alaska followed suit in 2016. Only residents age 21 or older can buy the drug. In eight states and Washington, D.C. people who are at least 21 can possess and use marijuana recreationally.
Regardless of these new laws, it is still illegal to transport marijuana across state lines. This is true even between two states sharing a border, where both states have legalized marijuana. That is because federal law prohibits it. The prohibition includes not only driving across state lines but also flying or mailing marijuana. It also remains illegal to smoke and drive, just as it is to drink and drive.
Fatal crashes involving marijuana impairment have doubled in a legal state
There was a recent study conducted in one state that has legalized marijuana. The study showed that the number of fatal car accidents involving marijuana impairment nearly doubled. The study suggests that the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana, as well as making possession of marijuana legal, has had a negative effect on road safety.
The need for a better drug impairment test
The American Automobile Association (AAA) has expressed concern that in light of the increased number of deaths related to driving while impaired by marijuana, the test is currently being used to detect impairment appears to be ineffective. Although in states where the use of marijuana has been legalized, police officers impose a drug test to identify impairment, AAA believes the test in ineffective.
The drug test being administered analyzes the blood for TCH content, the chemical in marijuana that causes impairment. Yet, it appears the threshold being applied may be arbitrary, providing an inaccurate reading of the level of impairment. The main reason is that TCH remains in an individual’s blood for several days. Also, the drug test results are not immediate.
How does marijuana cause impairment?
Essentially, marijuana affects brain function by slowing reaction time, limiting motor function, and impairing judgment. An individual operating under the influence of marijuana will have difficulty concentrating and completing tasks. Because driving is a task that requires absolute concentration, complete attention and alertness, driving under the influence of marijuana obviously compromises safety.
How to determine a threshold for impaired driving
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is a direct link between the concentration of TCH in the blood and how impaired a driver is when operating their vehicle. Yet, the chemical TCH affects people differently, which makes setting a threshold more difficult when it comes to driving offenses. One recommendation from AAA is to train law enforcement to use a method that combines detecting impairment along with the use of a blood test, as opposed to simply imposing a threshold.
Laws regarding marijuana in the state of Missouri
Missouri is one of several states where both the possession and use of marijuana is still illegal. On the other hand, Missouri has lowered the penalties for criminal charges for marijuana possession this year. Specifically, possession of less than 10gms of marijuana will generally not result in jail time.
Drunk driving laws in Missouri
A first conviction for DUI or DWI in Missouri can lead to incarceration, fines, and administrative penalties. Underage drivers and drivers with commercial driver’s licenses may be subject to different penalties.
Administrative Penalties in Missouri
Someone convicted of a first DUI or DWI offense in Missouri will likely have their driver’s license suspended for 30 days, and be subject to another 60-day restricted suspension. Under the implied consent laws in Missouri, if a driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test there will be an automatic license revocation for one year. As in Arkansas, the court can order the use of an ignition interlock device upon reinstatement of a driver’s license.
Criminal Penalties in Missouri
A first offense DUI in Missouri does not result in a mandatory jail sentence. However, the court still has the discretion to order incarceration of up to six (6) months. The fines associated with a first offense DUI in Missouri cannot exceed $500. This amount does not include the costs associated with license reinstatement, payment of other surcharges and court fees, or the costs incurred during completion of a jail sentence.
If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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