Too High to Drive – Impaired by Marijuana

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May 08, 2017
Edward Smith



Too High to Drive

Hi, I’m Ed Smith, a Roseville Personal Injury Lawyer. An increasing number of people are gaining interest in the dangers of driving while high as more states begin to adopt recreation laws for marijuana use. Here are the facts and what you need to know.

Marijuana, the Facts:

A big question that is gaining prominence around the country is driving while under the influence of marijuana (cannabis). While the use of cannabis is not new, using the drug for recreational use was illegal in the United States until 2012. As of 2017, the recreational use of cannabis is legalized in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington D.C. Although these states have legalized recreational use and many others have adopted laws legalizing its use for medicinal purposes, possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law and is punishable by fine or incarceration. With the new legalization of the drug in the above states, the discussion of how it affects your ability to drive is becoming a hot topic.

The Difference between Drunk and Stoned Driving

It is no secret that alcohol affects your mind differently than THC, the chemical responsible for the cannabis’ high. In fact, the same conclusion is seen when law enforcement pulls over impaired drivers. The officer will ask the driver to perform a series of exercises such as: following a pen with their eyes, walking in a straight line, and balancing while on one foot.

The test has proven effective at revealing those that have alcohol in their system, as 88% of inebriated drivers have difficulty or fail to pass the tests. But the series does not have the same track record when discerning stoned drivers, where only 30% of stoned drivers fail the tests.

So, being high doesn’t affect driving?


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that although THC affects the brain differently than alcohol, its effects on cognition, judgment, motor coordination, reaction time, and awareness are high, no pun intended. Although findings have been mixed, some studies show that drivers with any level of THC present in their bloodstream are up to seven times more likely to be involved in a car accident than those who are not impaired. Worse yet, those accidents are twice as likely to cause a fatality. It’s no mystery why stoned driving is illegal in every state. Research is still ongoing but it is important to obey the law and avoid any impairment while driving.

A Stoned Driver May Appear More Cautious

Dr. Marilyn A. Huestis further explores the differences between how alcohol and cannabis affect the brain. In her studies, she finds that participants impaired by THC could still do simple mathematic tests. Although using more brainpower than a sober person, they are much less likely to fail when comparing those impaired by alcohol. This difference can further be shown through a drunk driver’s tendency to take unnecessary risks and overestimate their abilities. This differs from a stoned driver’s tendency to underestimate their abilities and use more caution. Those impaired by cannabis tend to have a clearer understanding of their impairment while the opposite is true of those who are impaired by alcohol.

With this realization, a stoned driver may not seem like a harmful thing to have on the roads. Yet, Dr. Huestis finds that the dangers of cannabis impairment manifest when the individual is responsible for multiple tasks at once. While driving. a high individual is not able to process a changing scenario as quickly, resulting in less time to react to them. While driving, this increases the impaired driver’s risk of causing a car accident. Please, help keep our roads safe by avoiding to drive while impaired by marijuana or alcohol. Despite their differences, both affect your ability to maintain your safety and others’ while operating a vehicle. Please drive responsibly.

Personal Injury Lawyer in Roseville

Hi, I’m Ed Smith, a Roseville Personal Injury Lawyer. Accidents happen, and if you or anyone close to you have experienced a wrongful death or serious injury due to the negligence of another party, please, do not hesitate to call me locally at (916) 921-6400 or at (800) 404-5400 for free friendly advice.

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