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NHTSA Study Highlights Differences in Marijuana and Alcohol DUI Risks

Posted on in DUI

marijuana DUI in Illinois, criminal defense lawyerA new government study addresses the issue of driving while under the influence of marijuana. This report is especially timely given that more and more states are passing new statutes allowing the use of medical marijuana.

According to the study, which was conducted by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), people who are driving while under the influence of marijuana were at a much lower risk of getting into a car accident than drivers who are under the influence of alcohol.

The report, Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk, contains the results of the NHTSA’s 20 month study. And according to that data, there is not a substantial change in the car accident risk for people who have smoked marijuana before they get behind the wheel of a car. However, drivers who have blood alcohol content (BAC) even as low as .05 increases have almost seven times the risk of crashing than someone who is sober.

The study points out that it is almost impossible to determine a person’s impairment because they are under the influence of marijuana the same way that alcohol impairment is measured – through blood concentration. The detection of the primary active ingredient in marijuana – THC – in a person’s blood does not correlate in any way with what that person’s impairment level may be, if at all.

The researchers point out that a person who is a regular marijuana user could show levels of THC in their blood for days, even weeks, after the person has smoked. So although the drug may show up in a person’s blood test, this does not mean they have recently smoked marijuana. This is unlike alcohol, which breaks down in the blood within hours after use.

There are currently 35 states which have implemented or are in the process of implementing some kind of medical marijuana program. These changes in state laws are in response to numerous studies which show that marijuana has been shown to have medicinal benefits when used to treat symptoms of AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, multiple sclerosis, side-effects from chemotherapy, and a host of dozens of other conditions.

Illinois has begun a pilot program for medical marijuana users. As of this writing, there have been approximately 14,000 people who have begun the application process for the program, which has three parts. For those who are approved, the question is how will the law handle arrests of driving under the influence of drugs?

If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, contact an experienced Arlington Heights criminal law attorney to discuss what your defense options to these charges may be.

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