Considering Safety Issues as Court Prepares to Put Medical Marijuana on Florida Ballot

In this day and age, there really is no debate that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous and deadly. However, there has been quite a bit of debate on a related issue: what is the effect of marijuana on driving ability? It is a question of increasing importance as more and more states legalize marijuana for medical or, in Colorado, general use. While our firm takes no position on the question of legalization, we do believe that laws permitting use must be accompanied by research and legislation on driving under the influence of marijuana. It appears that, at least at some level, marijuana may impair driving ability. For that reason, we believe it is important to educate the public on the potential safety threat, and our Panama City injury lawyer is ready to help people injured in marijuana-related car accidents.

Florida Court Approves Ballot Initiative on Medical Marijuana

As detailed by WJHG, Florida's Supreme Court has given the nod to a plan to put the question of medical marijuana on voter's ballots this November. Specifically, by a 4-to-3 margin, the justices approved language for a ballot initiative that could amend the state constitution to permit the use of marijuana for specific medical uses. The move came just 3 days after a petition received the full number of signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi had challenged the language of the ballot initiative, suggesting it was misleading. Political opinion is mixed with Governor Scott opposing medical marijuana and his expected challengers, former Governor Christ and former state Senator Nan Rich, supporting the measure.

Marijuana Use and Driving Ability

As a law firm for injured Floridians, our main concern in this debate is public safety, including the safety of people on our state's roads. The issue of driving under the influence of marijuana was recently discussed as part of a report in the Health & Science section of The Washington Post, when Colorado passed a much more permissive marijuana law. The authors cite studies that show marijuana impacts spatial perception, finding that drivers under the influence may swerve inappropriately, follow too close, exhibit slower reaction times, and generally lose concentration. These findings led researchers to conclude marijuana use increases the risk of an accident. This risk is exacerbated when pot and alcohol are mixed.

However, as the article notes, it is difficult to declare what level of marijuana use impacts driving ability. Marijuana advocates suggest that setting a blood-level limit on THC, the drug's active ingredient, could lead to wrongful convictions. They say that the drug affects people differently, and THC can remain in the blood long after use. In contrast, officials say that they can pinpoint "active" THC in blood tests. Lawmakers in Colorado resolved the dispute by creating a "permissive inference" that a given THC level causes impairment. In general, courts across the U.S. considering drugged-driving cases tend to focus more on police testimony and observations than on THC blood levels. Regardless, drivers in Colorado can lose their license if they refuse to consent to a blood draw when they are suspected of driving while high.

Keeping Floridians Safe, Representing the Injured

Two things are clear:

  1. Marijuana can negatively impact driving ability.
  2. It is hard to create a bright line test declaring when someone is too stoned to drive.

Florida's law enforcement officials must be prepared to confront drivers high on pot, even more so if the ballot initiative becomes law. Education and other preventative measures should also follow any change to Florida's drug law.

Regardless of the bill's passage, when marijuana use impairs an individual's driving ability and an accident occurs, we are prepared to help. Call our Panama City car accident lawyer if the dangerous mix of drugs and driving left you injured or mourning the loss of a loved one.

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