It is still too soon to know the full effects of Washington's recent legalization of marijuana. But early data, according to Project SAM, an anti-pot group, suggest Washington roads have become more dangerous.
The data comes from a state toxicologist and shows that the rate of THC has increased in the blood of Washingtonians facing DUI charges; THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. In 2012, Washingtonians tested for driving under the influence contained a THC level of close to 19 percent. In 2013, that figure rose to nearly 25 percent.
The rise, according to Project SAM, is linked to Washington's legalization of marijuana. In support, the group notes that the THC-positive share only went up by about six percent from 2009 to 2010, about four percent from 2010 to 2011, and actually dropped by nearly eight percent from 2011 to 2012.
Others are cautioning that the figures do not speak to the danger of marijuana. It simply tells us that marijuana consumption has increased, which is hardly a surprise. Because more people are consuming marijuana, more drivers will test positive for THC, even though they are not impaired.
Though the data is not sufficient to draw strong conclusions, one thing is certain: Washingtonians charged with driving under the influence need to take those charges seriously because the penalties can be significant.
Some common ways to contest the charges include challenging police conduct. This approach generally falls into two groups. The first is to argue the police did not have probable cause to pull one's car over. The second is to claim the police improperly conducted the stop. For example, they may not have conducted the blood draw properly. To determine whether these and other defenses are available, Washingtonians may benefit from discussing their case with an experienced DUI attorney.
Source: Forbes, "Drunk And Drugged Driving Arrests Fall In Washington As Anti-Pot Group Warns That Legalization Undermines Road Safety," Jacob Sullum, March 7, 2014