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Driving While Under The Influence of Marijuana?

It’s been known for ages in the medical world that smoking marijuana possesses incomparable health benefits. It seems to have taken a while, but many states in the U.S. are legalizing marijuana in one form or the other, mostly for medical use. Florida attempted to legalize marijuana for medical use in November, 2014, but even with most voters in favor of the change, Amendment 2 failed to exceed the minimum 60% supermajority vote requirement to pass and become law. They’ll get another chance in 2016.

The herb, which is commonly smoked through pipes, aids patients suffering from illnesses ranging from anorexia to whiplash, so when the amendment was denied, a great deal of Floridians were disappointed. Most voters in favor of the amendment are optimistic about the changes that legalizing medical marijuana could bring. A good handful of those voters suffer from conditions themselves (or know someone who does) and could seriously benefit from a different form of treatment.

When it comes to cancer, chemotherapy is a hopeful option, but certainly not a desired one. When Florida citizens are forced to undergo chemo simply because marijuana is illegal in this state, it’s sometimes incentive to move away to a state in which it is legal. But Attorney John Morgan of Morgan and Morgan has stated himself that he’s not going to take “no” for an answer. The denial of Amendment 2 was just the first lost battle of a lengthy war and he plans to keep this topic booming for the next round of votes.

So marijuana allegedly has all of these great health benefits, but what about the side effects? Well—craving some food? Otherwise known as the “munchies”, this questionably positive adverse condition comes fully equipped with an increased appetite and a strong sense of enjoyment of both food and drink items. This is why smoking marijuana can be a viable treatment for those with decreased appetites; unless you’ve become dependent on it. Watch any Hollywood stoner movie and you’ll know this already; but do they exaggerate it a bit?

Most regimented smokers have no issues with the “munchies”, simply seeing it as a good time to have some extra snacks around the house. Others will relentlessly search for something delicious, often going out of their way to obtain it from a store or fast food place. They hop in their cars and meticulously drive to the nearest Taco Bell for a few bean burritos—and there the problem lies. When they step outside the safety of their own homes and make the brave choice to operate a motor vehicle is when it becomes an issue of public safety. So is it something to worry about? 

What makes a good driver? 

A good driver should be able to quickly respond to the ever-changing traffic, weather, and road conditions and make decisions that are best for every driver that is sharing the road with them. Having thorough knowledge of his or her vehicle and each of its features allows for a driver to have more control.  Being quick and having a polished enough reaction time to apply those features is what keeps our Clearwater roads relatively accident-free. Finally, knowing how to work well and communicate with other drivers it the best way to guarantee an effortless and speedy travel experience.

Unfortunately, reaction time is one of the first things affected by marijuana…doesn’t that make them unfit for motor vehicle operation? Well, the amount of medical marijuana that patients are expected to smoke is probably considerably smaller than you think. The amount that you would need to smoke to noticeably hinder your reaction time is more along the lines of recreational use—in other words, smoking as a hobby, and aiming to get high over anything; not necessarily looking to benefit from the medicinal power. Currently, the recreational use of marijuana is legal in only two U.S. states: Colorado and Washington. In that case, unless you live in one of those two states, you should never have to worry about drivers whose reaction times are hindered by marijuana, right? Wrong.

Overusing marijuana? 

Substance abuse is a real thing, and just like alcohol, people consume more marijuana than they need and get too high…”stoned”. It is then that attempting to operate a motor vehicle is a bad idea. THC—the main ingredient in marijuana that makes the user feel high—can cause anxiety which stems from an overactive and over-thinking mind.  When emotions, thoughts, and distractions run rampant in the head of a driver, how can we expect them to focus on driving?

The real issue that ties everything together is this: are the hindrances that are introduced from driving while stoned more potent than those which are introduced from driving while drunk? The straightforward answer is no. Statistically speaking, marijuana is an outstandingly harmless drug with very few reported injuries that can be blamed solely on the use of it.

Of course, it’s been stated to be a contributing factor in a ton of motor vehicle accidents, but exactly how much of a role it plays is still unknown. However, the effect that alcohol has on drivers is very well known. Surprisingly enough, even a driver who is unaware of a settling traumatic brain injury is at a higher risk of crashing.

Research groups are hard at work trying to lay out some facts about marijuana and how it affects daily living. It’s not only driving while high that matters when it comes to personal injury. Filing a Workers’ Compensation claim would be pointless if you were under the influence of any illegal drugs at the time of injury; you will be denied coverage if the insurance company knows about it.

Regardless of the facts, the use of marijuana in any form is still illegal in Florida, so driving while high should not be an activity that you participate in any time soon. While there may not be any supporting facts, statistics, or research yet to prove that driving while high is dangerous, there’s also not much to prove that it’s safe. With that said, it’s best to be completely sober and alert when it comes to a responsibility like driving. When you’re on the open roads, you play a role in the safety of more people than just those in your vehicle.

For more information on legal issues like this one give us a call at 727-451-6900.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765