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Police In Pot States Anticipating High Drivers, Traffic Accidents

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Recreational marijuana use became legal Jan. 1 in Nevada, and state officials are fearing an increase of stoned drivers and traffic accidents.

Voters in the state approved Measure 2 on Election Day, legalizing recreational marijuana throughout Nevada. Public smoking remains banned, but individuals are allowed to possess up to one ounce for personal consumption. Police in Nevada made it clear Sunday they are taking the threat of stoned driving seriously and put a warning out to potential drivers, reports St. George News.

Penalties for drunk driving or high driving are the same under Nevada law and it is left to the officer to determine if someone is impaired behind the wheel.

“We care about your use of marijuana once you get behind the wheel and drive,” Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Jason Buratczuk said Sunday. “Those using marijuana cannot judge their own level of impairment and need to understand that any amount of consumption puts individuals at a greater risk of an impaired crash, injury and even death when behind the wheel.”

The department is pushing a “drive high, get a DUI” message to residents who may be eager to engage the newly relaxed laws on marijuana. If an officer suspects you during a field sobriety test of being high, the driver will be forced to take a blood test. Two nanograms of active THC in the blood system constitutes a DUI under Nevada law.

Traffic fatalities are not surging in states where weed is now legal, however, and the rate of traffic deaths dropped in most states after legalizing medical marijuana. Researchers found that when states legalized medical marijuana, traffic fatalities dropped on average by 11 percent. Traffic deaths dropped by 12 percent among 25 to 44 year olds, the demographic with the largest amount of registered medical marijuana users, further shocking the researchers.

The authors suggest that stoners might be more attune to their lack of sobriety than someone who has been drinking heavily, or that medical marijuana patients are spending less time out at bars, but note no definitive connections can be made.

It is unclear whether legalizing marijuana for recreational use will follow the same trends, and the study’s authors say more research is needed to understand the declines in traffic fatalities.

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