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The Next Impairment Frontier: States Wrestle With Marijuana

Several states have legalized medical and recreational use of marijuana. Now that residents can use marijuana products legally, those states need to determine how to be sure that impairment does not become a public safety problem on the roads.

Despite widespread fears, the impact of marijuana on impairment and motor vehicle accidents is far from clear. Most experts agree that marijuana can impair drivers at some point-the big question is where to set the limits and how to enforce the laws.

One big way that marijuana impairment differs from drunk driving is that it can be very hard for law enforcement authorities to tell when a driver is unsafe. Roadside tests are currently unavailable and the only way to conclusively measure levels of THC is with a blood evaluation. On top of this, some impaired drivers might be able to focus while speaking to a police officer-even though they would be far less safe when simply driving uninterrupted.

In states like Ohio where marijuana is still illegal, pot-related impairment can play a big role in car accident cases. Like drunk driving, impairment is often strong evidence that a particular driver is responsible for personal injuries after a wreck.

Source: New York Times, "Redefining 'Under the Influence,'" Dan Frosch, June 7, 2013

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