Car Accidents, DUI and Colorado's New Marijuana Laws

Denver-based attorney R. Mack Babcock represents injured parties of accidents caused by marijuana DUI or intoxication

In 2012, Colorado became one of two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and on January 1, 2014, shops began opening across the state. Since the pot legalization is still relatively new, it’s unclear what effect it will have on car accidents in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder and across Colorado.
Although marijuana, like beer, wine and liquor, may be technically legal now, it is still ILLEGAL to drive under the influence of the drug.

Drivers under the influence of marijuana can experience drowsiness, lethargy and slower reaction times among other things

To what extent marijuana can impair someone is rather unclear, but several studies have confirmed that a user can experience temporary impairment for up to 4 hours after ingesting the drug. A study from Australia using a driving simulator found marijuana had effects on steering, headway control, speed variability, slower reaction time and lane drifting.

Accident statistics from around the country indicate that between 6% and 11% of fatal accident victims tested positive for THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. However, the link between marijuana intoxication and car accidents is inconclusive, but more data should become available over the next few years.

New Colorado laws for marijuana and driving set a legal limit of 5 nannograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Currently, the only reliable way to test for marijuana is through a blood test, which is extremely cumbersome.

This limit though is controversial since THC in the bloodstream doesn’t necessarily indicate impairment — unlike alcohol, marijuana can stay in a user’s system for days or weeks after ingesting. So while the intoxicating effects may last for only 2-4 hours, the remnants of THC can remain in the bloodstream for much longer.

If you’ve been in a car accident and think the other driver was under the influence of marijuana, discuss your case with an attorney today...

It can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is intoxicated by marijuana, especially after a car accident. But a few signs you can look for include:

  • Red, watery eyes
  • Slow moving
  • Unable to focus
  • Sleepiness
  • Dry mouth

Like we said above though, someone could have marijuana in their system and not be intoxicated.
The most important thing to remember is that you do have a right to compensation if you’re in a car accident that was another driver’s fault — regardless of any intoxication.

But if you can prove the other driver was under the influence at the time of the accident, you may qualify for “punitive” damages.

Check our blog periodically for updates on Colorado’s new marijuana laws, including any new data that sheds light on its impact on car accidents.

We invite you to continue browsing our website and knowledge center to learn more about car accidents, DUI, finding an attorney and much more. And if you’re ready to discuss your individual case, please make an appointment with Denver car accident attorneys at the Babcock Law Firm for a no-risk consultation today.

Download our new (PDF) Colorado Car Accident Guide for a comprehensive overview, and print out the handy car accident checklist that includes critical steps you need to try and take after an accident occurs.

See articles below, or visit our knowledge center and blog to learn more about DUI accidents

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