There’s some bad news for advocates of recreational marijuana legalization and for all drivers in the state of Washington: There’s been a drastic increase in the number of roadway fatalities tied to marijuana use since legalization of the drug in 2012.

Researchers with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety compared cannabis-related fatal crashes from 2008 to 2012 (prior to the legalization of recreational marijuana) and from 2013 to 2017 (after legalization). Here’s what they found:

  • During the years just prior to legalization, roughly 8.8% of drivers involved in fatal accidents tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that’s responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis.
  • During the years following the legalization of the drug, 18% of the drivers involved in those types of accidents tested positive for THC.
  • Roughly speaking, that means that around 130 drivers every year are testing positive for THC following a fatal wreck — compared to only 56 per year prior to the drug’s legalization.

Does this necessarily mean that drugged driving is becoming more common? It’s possible. It’s also possible that many more people are simply using cannabis regularly now that the drug is legal — and the THC is staying in their systems. Since THC can show up in tests for days or weeks, it’s hard to tell if a driver was “driving stoned” or not based on tests alone.

What can you do if you encounter a suspected drugged driver? If you’ve been in an accident, make sure that you draw the responding officer’s attention to your suspicions. You also want to document whatever led to your conclusions as soon as possible.

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