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AAA report warns weed legalization could lead to more DWAI crashes

Andrew Hyman
Updated: January 30, 2020 11:44 PM
Created: January 30, 2020 11:37 PM

(WHEC) — A new report shows a spike in drivers testing positive for THC after a deadly car crash.

The report, released Thursday by AAA, examined the five-year periods leading up to and after recreational marijuana legalization in Washington State.

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In 2012, the state became the first in the United States to do so.

According to the report, from 2008 to 2012, 8.8% of drivers were found with traces of THC, and from 2013-2017, the number more than doubled to 18%.

"It is a dramatic shift," said AAA Communications Specialist, April Engram.

The report says driving high can cause a variety of dangerous impairments from inhibited concentration, slow reaction times, and cloudy judgment, which then puts other drivers at risk.

The concerns come as a push to bring recreational use to New York gains ground in Albany. In his 2021 budget outline, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a comprehensive regulatory approach to legalizing cannabis.

It’s a move AAA is against.

"You don't know if individuals still make it behind the wheel, and think that they're safe,” Engram said.

In questions about the study’s effectiveness, Engram pointed to a 2018 study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which found crashes were up at least 5.2% across several states which legalized marijuana for recreational use.

What the report leaves out:

"It’s kind of an arbitrary study," said Executive Director of Roc NORML, Mary Kruger.

The organization, which represents the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law has long advocated for legislation. Kruger says, with recreational weed, there would definitely be an increase in users, though she feels the report missed the mark.

She says the study did not take into account if a person was impaired or not at the time they were tested after a crash.

"You could consume cannabis, and then sometimes up to three months later you can still THC in your system," Kruger said.

The study admitted researchers did not attempt to find out if marijuana contributed to the crashes, only if the driver was found to be THC positive.

What’s next?

Both Engram and Kruger say if recreational cannabis is legalized in New York, it is ultimately up to lawmakers to stress against impaired driving. Both mentioned developments like a possible weed breathalyzer as a deterrent.

How does NY stack up?

After New York State’s medical marijuana laws passed in 2014, we looked into these numbers: (Per state data)


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