The Vancouver Sun reported an increase in fatal crashes that has followed the legalization of marijuana and should give us pause when considering how to implement legalization in British Columbia and yet keep our roads safe. Washington State and Colorado were the first to legalize marijuana in 2012. The statistics regarding fatal accidents since legalization are troubling.
Washington State reported an increase from 8 percent to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014 in drivers who tested positive for marijuana use that were involved in fatal crashes. Colorado reported a tripling in rates for drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana with 3.4 percent in 2005 to 12.1 percent in 2014.
Marijuana is second after only alcohol in being the most frequently detected drug in crash involved drivers. These sobering statistics indicate that consideration of the impact on road safety must be taken into account in the plan to legalize marijuana. Standards, new laws and penalties to enforce these new laws must be implemented. The other difficulty will be the lack of scientifically proven and practical roadside testing tools for police. This means that sobriety testing when it concerns marijuana use will be difficult and not readily available to all police officers.
These statistics and the Colorado and Washington State experience highlight that implementation of the legalization of marijuana while maintaining the safety of our roads is going to be complicated and will require a lot of thought and ingenuity on the part of law makers, policy makers and the police who will have to enforce the laws.