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Marijuana and driving while impaired

California legalized the recreational use of marijuana on Nov.8, 2016. With more than half the 50 states having relaxed drug laws, concern is mounting over the potential for more people driving while they are impaired.

Soon after the state of Washington passed similar legislation, fatal crashes involving drivers who had recently ingested the drug doubled, according to the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety . This statistic has created a rush among technology companies to deliver the first reliable lab test to accurately measure the amount of drug in the breath or bodily fluids of marijuana-impaired motorists.

The search is hampered by the fact that, unlike alcohol, there is no scientific way to accurately pinpoint the amount of marijuana in the blood at which a given individual would be driving under the influence. Not only does marijuana affect different people in different ways, the drug does not interact with the body in the same way that alcohol does. The matter is further compounded by the fact that existing chemical tests can detect the presence of marijuana several weeks after its consumption, when the potential for driving impairment has long since passed.

It is impossible to say whether the basic human drive to turn a profit will triumph over scientific realities to develop the first accurate and legally-acceptable test for marijuana in impaired drivers. In the meantime, a conviction on such charges can mean jail time and other significant penalties. People who are facing them may want to have the assistance of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. In addition to challenging the reliability of an impairment test, an attorney could question whether the initial traffic stop itself was made without the requisite reasonable suspicion.

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