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Reduced marijuana penalties have higher risks

The legalization, decriminalization, or acceptance of recreational and medical marijuana across the nation has provided a false sense of security to motorists, including commercial truck drivers, who consume it before driving. Marijuana, alcohol or other drug impairment still increases the risk of trucking accidents.

In 2019, 36,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in this country. There were 11,000 fatalities attributed to impairment from being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or being fatigued. Testing availability and accuracy has reduced the ability to obtain accurate data on driving impairment caused by drugs.

But almost three-quarters of drivers involved in fatal accidents who tested positive for cannabis also had multiple substances in their system, according to a recent report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. In the reports sample, 35 percent tested positive for cannabis and alcohol, 29 percent were positive for cannabis and other drugs and 11 percent were positive for a combination of cannabis, alcohol and other drugs.

Marijuana legalization has made more stronger strains available and expanded consumption methods. Marijuana rose from three to six percent concentration to almost 30 percent in flower and 93 to 94 percent in some oils.

Marijuana was typically ingested through smoking, vaporizing, dabbing and even inhalers. But new methods make it more difficult for trucking safety managers to spot consumption. Marijuana is now consumed through potato chips, gummy bears, chocolate bars and other edible products which take longer to absorb and metabolize through the liver before they have an impact.

There has also been more use of cannabidiol, known as CBD, for reduction of pain or anxiety. CBD may be ingested orally in liquid or droplet form, through gummies, or through dermal patches. These patches can transmit the substance into the bloodstream allowing the storing of THC into body fats.

THC has different impact and duration. A driver who smokes THC may experience peak effects one to 30 minutes from the first smoking, may be impacted behaviorally and psychologically for three to five hours and have residual effects for up to one day. Edibles and other orally ingested THC may have a peak effect for one to three hours after consuming while behavioral and residual effects have no timeline.

Victims of an accident caused by an impaired trucker may suffer serious injuries. An attorney can help them seek compensation in a lawsuit.