The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana has more than doubled since 2013, federal and state data show. These trends coincide with the legalization of recreational marijuana in that state that began with adult use in late 2012, followed by sales in 2014. Coroners in the Denver area have been finding increasingly potent levels of marijuana in positive-testing drivers who die in crashes. Nearly a dozen in 2016 had levels five times the amount allowed by law and one that was at 22 times the limit. These levels were not as elevated in the years prior to Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana. In response, police, victims’ families, and safety advocates say the numbers of drivers testing positive for marijuana use are rising too quickly to ignore and highlight the potential dangers of mixing marijuana with driving. “We went from zero to 100, and we’ve been chasing it ever since,” Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson said of the state’s implementation of legalized marijuana. “Nobody understands it and people are dying. That’s a huge public safety problem.”
The 2013-2016 period saw a 40 percent increase in the number of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado, from 627 to 880, according to the NHTSA data. Those who tested positive for alcohol in fatal crashes from 2013 to 2015 – figures for 2016 were not available – grew 17 percent, from 129 to 151.The 2013-16 period saw a 40 percent increase in the number of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado, from 627 to 880, according to the NHTSA data. Those who tested positive for alcohol in fatal crashes from 2013 to 2015 – figures for 2016 were not available – grew 17 percent, from 129 to 151.
While recreational marijuana is not legal in Georgia, medical marijuana is, and there is evidence that the state is not immune from the negative effects of the drug that Colorado has faced. In fact, police estimate that the number of people being arrested for driving while high on drugs is up 20 percent in Georgia in the past five years. Despite this, Governor Nathan Deal signed a measure into law earlier this year that expands the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana to include AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. Although marijuana provides numerous medical benefits to patients suffering from a variety of conditions, it is still a mind-altering substance, and eligible patients should not drive while using it. Driving while under the influence of marijuana is treated as a DUI, and anyone doing so will face the normal consequences that DUIs entail, including criminal prosecution and civil personal injury and wrongful death suits.