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Driving under the influence of marijuana and other drugs

While exact numbers are difficult to ascertain due to inconsistent testing, according to the Nation Survey on Drug Use and Health over 10 million people took to the roads under the influence of an illicit drug in 2013. While it pales to the estimated 29 million people thought to have driven under the influence of alcohol the same year, 10 million represents a lot of avoidable accidents.

The United States seems to be slowly turning in favor of the legalization of marijuana. In Missouri there is already a bill for marijuana legalization under consideration by a State House panel. This means that in the near future Missouri may join the growing number of states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use. Already today Columbia and St. Louis have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, issuing tickets and fines in lieu of jail time. While use of the drug may soon be approved, driving while under its influence currently carries with it a penalty of up to six months in jail for a first offense.

Although some states have adopted limits based on the amounts of the active ingredient in marijuana, currently in Missouri there is no legally acceptable amount of marijuana that can be in someone’s system while they are driving. The presence of marijuana in a driver’s system at the time of an accident can be used to support a negligence claim against them. Not only can it create liability, it may rise to the level of conscious disregard for the safety of others needed to enable the recovery of punitive damages.

Car accidents are mostly caused by human error, which means they are avoidable in most situations. Driving is hard enough without finding new ways of distracting oneself from the road.

Source: Missouri Revised Statutes, “Chapter 577,” Accessed Oct. 28, 2014