An Oklahoma drug attorney source indicates that marijuana busts and accidents involving marijuana-impaired drivers is on the rise nationally. Authorities in nearly every state are aware of the trend and have been on heavy patrol and making an abnormally high number of marijuana busts in an effort to reduce the numbers.
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Interstates tend to be the primary target of law enforcement officials, as they’re used to move drugs in and out of the state, as well as by those distributing cannabis throughout the state, though roadways everywhere are seeing more impaired drivers. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound present in marijuana that accounts for the high it provides, is presently found in the systems of around 17-percent of drivers in fatal collisions. Before states like Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana, THC was only detected in 9-percent of drivers involved in fatal collisions. Remarkably, this increase was not only discovered in states that legalized marijuana, but across the country, suggesting that marijuana trafficking is up as a result.
The total number of THC-related fatal collisions has also jumped from 32,675 to 35,200. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) this is the largest spike the country has seen in more than 50 years. A report by AAA also notes that the number of people driving with THC in their systems is rising overall. Approximately 12.6-percent of all nighttime weekend drivers now test positive for the compound, representing a 4-percent increase in roughly six years. For comparison, only 8.3-percent of drivers are testing positive for alcohol and the number is dropping.
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THC is found in varying degrees in different varieties of cannabis. For example, medicinal marijuana has very low levels of THC, while recreational marijuana varies widely, but has significantly more. Unlike alcohol, in which the level of impairment can be judged based on a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC), THC measurements cannot determine impairment. According to representatives at AAA, this is a large issue, as many of those with detectable levels of THC may not be impaired by the compound.
AAA recommends that law enforcement agencies pair their tests with physical impairment tests as well. The agency says that officers today are not generally trained well enough to know whether a person is genuinely impaired by the substance and suggest that law enforcement agencies provide further training and additional testing that checks a person’s behavior and cognitive abilities before making a marijuana bust. Despite this, most agencies have not yet made the shift to cope with the changing patterns of residents, which has resulted in mass marijuana busts, time in court, and an unusually high number of incarcerations.
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