Whether it’s for medical or recreational use, there remain a large number of opponents to marijuana legalization in the US today. And while these groups use several areas as justification for their views, one of the most common arguments is that the rate of DUIs will skyrocket if marijuana is legalized, leading to a greater rate of accidents and deaths on the road.
At Whole Leaf Medical Dispensary and CBD, a big part of our medical marijuana program, from dried flower to concentrates, edibles and other formats, involves educating both our patients and the general public about the realities of marijuana legalization. And while some opponents of legalization may mean well, this particular DUI-related argument is spurious and not backed up by recent evidence – in fact, it’s likely contradicted. Let’s look at some important information here, including the continued research that’s needed in this and other related areas.
As it happens, we have a fantastic test case available to us directly to the north: Canada legalized recreational marijuana across the country last October, the first major global economy to do so. Since then, how has the country – which is notably tougher on DUIs than the US, including felony-level charges in most cases – fared in terms of DUI rates related to this legalization?
The evidence is pretty stark: There has been no notable increase in cannabis-related driving offenses. Take a popular location like Vancouver, where only a handful of marijuana-related citations have been made in several months since legalization and most were not related to impaired driving. Similar research for several other major cities across the country showed the same results.
While the same level of comprehensive evaluation is not possible in the US, where marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, well over half the states in the country have legalized medical or recreational marijuana over the last three decades. During this time, several reports – including this one from 2018 – have found similar results as our Canadian counterparts to the north: There’s no relationship between marijuana legalization and impaired driving incidents. The study, which was commissioned by a nonpartisan organization, also indicated that many biased research formats heavily overestimate crash risks in marijuana users.
Now, it’s important to note that there’s still more to learn here. States are still working toward a proper legal threshold for THC in the blood while driving, and there are issues to litigate in terms of THC residue in the bloodstream – residue that can last for several weeks even without making the person “high.” Further testing is also needed to separate alcohol impairment and marijuana impairment, which are very different.
Again, though, all current evidence points toward the connection between marijuana legalization and rising DUIs as simply untrue. For more on this, or to learn about any of our medical cannabis products, speak to the staff at Whole Leaf Medical Dispensary and CBD today.