Washington State Marijuana Law Raises Concerns about Impaired Driving

Voters in the State of Washington approved a measure allowing people over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. Under the new law, the state will implement licensing schemes for marijuana growers, processors and retail stores. However, some officials are concerned that stoned drivers will cause more collisions on the state’s roads, according to news reports.

Unlike its Colorado counterpart, Washington State’s new recreational marijuana law set a blood-test limit for marijuana. Essentially, this will create a presumption of impairment if a motorist’s THC blood level is above the limit, just as a driver is presumed to be impaired with a blood-alcohol level above the 0.08 limit.

Driving while impaired has always been illegal in the State of Washington and nothing in the new recreational marijuana law changes that. It remains illegal to drive impaired, whether a driver has been drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. But the law does provide challenges for law enforcement officers and prosecutors.

“We’ve had decades of studies and experience with alcohol,” Washington State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon told the Associated Press. “Marijuana is new, so it’s going to take some time to figure out how the courts and prosecutors are going to handle it. But the key is impairment: We will arrest drivers who drive impaired, whether it be [as a result of] drugs or alcohol.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one-third of all drivers who were fatally injured in collisions in 2009 and whose blood-test results were known tested positive for a drug other than alcohol. Tests conducted on randomly-stopped, night-time drivers in 2007 found that just over 16 percent tested positive for some type of drug, including 9 percent who had marijuana in their systems.

Whether the new law will lead to more people driving under the influence of marijuana remains to be seen; however, a driver who is impaired for any reason, and who causes a collision, is likely to be found negligent, or responsible, for the collision.

Talk to a Washington State Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a Washington State car accident involving impaired driving, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries or loss. The Washington State car accident attorneys at Mariano Morales Law can help you get through the legal process and make sure that the party responsible for your injuries or loss is held accountable.

Contact the team today by calling (509) 853-2222 or by using our online contact form for your free initial consultation.