A recent article talks about the growing concern of the dangers of marijuana related DUI accidents. Many law enforcement officials believe that people who consume marijuana are more likely to cause a serious accident than drivers who are drug and alcohol free. Because of the legalization of marijuana in several states and the legalization of medical marijuana in states like California, some fear that this will cause a rash of marijuana intoxicated accidents. The article cites a 2007 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration where nearly 10,000 drivers from all around the country were tested for drugs and alcohol and about 8.6% of them were positive for marijuana.
The article also states, however, that a 2011 study by Montana State University and the University of Colorado found that there was actually a decrease in traffic fatalities related to marijuana in states that legalized medical marijuana. One explanation they gave for this was that:
marijuana often is a substitute for alcohol and users tend to consume it at home rather than driving to commercial establishments.
So, how much of a threat are marijuana impaired drivers in California? This distinction is hard to make. According to California DMV statistics, the number of fatalities and injuries resulting from drug related crashes increased since 2001 with the number of drug involved crash fatalities rising from 13% in 2001 25% in 2011. These statistics include all types of drug intoxication and do not break down the percentages to show what number of drivers were marijuana impaired.
In California, there is no specific law that applies to marijuana related DUI. Rather, there is a broad statement designed to cover all bases of drug abuse. If marijuana DUI accidents become a bigger concern in the future, California may have to adopt a more specific law that works more like alcohol intoxication where a certain amount of THC (the key ingredient in marijuana) automatically means a driver is intoxicated.