The Walton Sun reported recently on a major drug bust in Panama City. 11 men were arrested in the federal raid, suspected of involvement in a major multi-state drug distribution ring. The suspects were charged in the U.S. District Court. During the raid, agents seized large amounts of cash, more than a ton of marijuana, and numerous firearms. The men arrested in the Panama City raid are suspected of involvement in a drug operation based in Texas but tied to drug cartels in Mexico. Panama City and Vernon appear have been regular stops in the drug ring's distribution route.
The federal authorities used aerial surveillance and GPS tracking to identify the Jeter Lane residence that was the location of the armed raid. If convicted on the drug charges and potential firearms violations, the men face anywhere from a minimum of 10 years in jail to life sentences. The sentences may be enhanced due to prior convictions on the records of several of the charged defendants.
The dangers involved in an illegal operation of this size are numerous. In addition to the violence associated with the drug trade, the presence of illegal substances is a danger to all area residents. While the first thought when one mentions Panama City DUI accidents is alcohol, our Panama City accident victim's law firm knows that drugs and driving are also a dangerous combination. Earlier this week, CNN reported on a British study involving nearly 50,000 participants that found the use of marijuana use nearly doubles the risk of a motor vehicle collision.
Marijuana has different, but equally dangerous, effects on a driver than alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages is dangerous because it slows a driver's reaction time. Marijuana is dangerous, in part, because it limits a driver's spatial recognition skills. Unlike with alcohol, the marijuana user often doesn't recognize the impairment. The drug can lead a driver to follow too closely or to weave in and out of lanes due to the impact of depth and location perception. The impact of marijuana can vary from person to person, but it typically takes three to four hours after use for the drug's effects to wear off.
The impact of marijuana on driving is notoriously difficult to study, in part because of the illegal nature of the drug. The British study reported in CNN was based on observational studies rather than controlled research conditions. Roadside marijuana testing is available in the U.S. but is less common than alcohol stops.
The fact that marijuana stays in the system for a long period can also make it more difficult to pinpoint time of use. However, despite the difficulty of studying the precise impact of marijuana on driving, it is clear that combining the drug with driving is dangerous to the user and to everyone else on the road.
Raids like the recent one in our region not only take criminals and weapons off the street, but also remove dangerous drugs from circulation. We applaud law enforcement's efforts to keep our region safe and also call for more education on the effects of marijuana on driving ability. Too many people consider pot a harmless substance, but drugs and driving is just as volatile a mix as drinking and driving.
If you have been harmed in a motor vehicle accident involving drugs, please contact a Panama City car accident lawyer to discuss your legal rights.