DUI: Drivin Under the Influence. Many know the term but usually associated only with drunk driving. Today though, many agents can influence your cognitive abilities. With four US states having already legalized marijuana for recreational use (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington), their experience thus far can be a good guidance for other states and countries on how to begin to tackle the known and unknown effects of this historical change. Most people are familiar with the term Drunk Driving, Distracted Driving and even Drowsy Driving, but High Driving is making its way on the map.
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Alcohol, Marijuana, and Driving
Driving under the influence of alcohol is extremely dangerous and too many people have paid with their lives for theirs or other’s mistakes. Every day in the US, 28 people die in car crashes involving a drunk or drugged driver. Drunk driving is strictly regulated in the US as well as neighboring countries like Canada. Based on a driver’s BAC, blood alcohol level, penalties such as striping of driving privileges, heavy fines, and even jail time can be assessed and are meticulously outlined in state and federal laws. When it comes to driving under the influence of marijuana, it is not as clear.
On the federal level, possessing, trafficking and producing marijuana is forbidden in the US. However, the federal government has allowed states to pass their own laws to decriminalize cannabis for recreational or medical use. They can do so, under the condition that they implement a system that regulates cannabis on multiple levels from limiting its distribution to minors and neighboring states to preventing drugged driving and exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences.
High Driving in the States
The first state to make marijuana legal for recreational use was Colorado. Among other things, they have regulated high driving with many of its penalties coinciding with their existing DUI regulations. In Colorado, driving under the influence of cannabis is allowed as long as the THC level in blood does not exceed five nanograms per milliliter of blood. In the three other states where marijuana has been legalized, it is still forbidden to drive while drugged at any level. As with the decades or research that has been compiled for the effects of alcohol, research will be needed to determine what detrimental effects to cognitive abilities marijuana has. One thing that most experts can agree on though is that there is no level of safe drug or alcohol consumption when it comes to ones ability to drive.
Drunk Driving vs. High Driving
Many people, including Americans, have heard of Justin Trudeau’s win to become the Prime Minister of Canada. One of his promises on the campaign trail was to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The Canadian government recently announced the launching of a marijuana task force which will help in regulating, selling, possessing, and growing the plant, as well as keeping the substance on legal tracks. Until the legalization process in Canada is finished, Canadians can still be charged with marijuana-related offenses. Until then, the Task Force can look to existing US marijuana-related laws and regulations to see how to best tackle the known and unknown effects of this important change.
One important thing to reference is what we already know about drunk driving. While alcohol affects people differently than marijuana and other drugs do, parallels can be drawn to help outline the measures that will keep everyone as safe as possible. Local and national governments can work together by sharing information on trends and effective measures. This infographic is a great source for this comparison and collaboration.