Contrary to what many might believe, driving while high or under the influence of marijuana is not safe, nor is it legal in Massachusetts. Operating a motor vehicle in this condition involves significant risks, including legal ones.
Legalization prompts questions about marijuana and driving
For decades, marijuana was illegal both federally and at the state level. Even relatively liberal states like Massachusetts outlawed the medical or recreational use of marijuana. The federal government’s Controlled Substance Act (CSA) of 1971, which remains in effect to this day, classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin and ecstasy. This category houses “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Obviously, marijuana is not as dangerous as heroin, especially in light of the deadly opioid crisis that has gripped Massachusetts neighborhoods. However, driving high does create its own set of dangers, including affecting drivers’ ability to safely navigate the streets.
Up until now, the lack of roadside testing or a universally accepted field sobriety test for marijuana prevented law enforcement from testing drivers on the street. Technology, though, has enabled more accurate, more rapid field testing that has changed the game from a legal perspective.
Marijuana affects driving ability
People who use marijuana before driving are significantly more likely to get into fatal car accidents. When users mix marijuana with another drug like alcohol (a common combination for recreational drug users), that likelihood further increases.
One of the seldom appreciated aspects of how marijuana impacts driving skills is the potency of modern cannabis. Back in the 1970s, even “high-grade” weed with the greatest THC concentrations was 5% THC maximum. Now, especially in states like Massachusetts where recreational marijuana is for sale in dispensaries, producers compete to create strains with the highest THC concentrations – sometimes exceeding 30%. Higher THC levels in the blood correlate to more accident fatalities.
Steering clear of high driving
High driving is not safe. Aside from potentially costing your life or that of another, it could also make you vulnerable to legal penalties as law enforcement’s THC-testing capabilities improve.