Lawmakers fearful of the threat stoned drivers pose are stepping up enforcement efforts, advocating blood testing in all DUI cases involving marijuana in Nevada.
Marijuana legalization is causing concerns over high driving and how to accurately test drivers for the substance. Legislation mandating the use of blood tests for DUI convictions in the state is heading to the governor’s desk for final approval after it passed in the state Senate Friday. Democratic state Assemblyman Steve Yeager, the bill’s sponsor, called it “a step in the right direction,” Friday, reports Reno Gazette Journal.
A urine test, the current measure of whether a driver may be impaired by marijuana, does not look for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana that gives users a traditional high. A blood test can identify THC, which lawmakers argue can give courts a more accurate reflection of a person’s alleged marijuana use behind the wheel.
“A urine test will tell you if someone has ingested marijuana in the past,” Yeager told Reno-Gazette Journal. “But it does not tell you if the person is actually impaired at the time the testing is done.”
Critics argue a blood test is still not sufficient to determine if a person is actually impaired behind the wheel at the time of arrest. A report commissioned by AAA in March 2016 determined tests that target THC are still inaccurate since there is no established level determining when people become impaired by THC.
Despite fears from lawmakers, traffic fatalities are not surging in states where weed is now legal and the rate of traffic deaths dropped in most states after legalizing medical marijuana.
Researchers found that when states legalized medical marijuana, traffic fatalities fell 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.
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. A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility found traffic deaths involving marijuana increased by 48 percent in Colorado after legalization of recreational marijuana.
Critics caution against reading into these statistics however because marijuana stays in a person’s system for weeks after use.
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