New Jersey legislators have flirted with the idea of legalizing marijuana for years now. Those who favor legalization cite benefits such as increased revenue from pot sales and the ability of law enforcement to focus on more severe crimes. While legalization would decriminalize most marijuana-related offenses, it could, according to NorthJersey.com, open the door for a spike in one particular offense: DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs).
According to the Oct. 18 article, that’s exactly what happened in Colorado after the state legalized marijuana usage in 2013. One report showed that marijuana-related traffic deaths rose by 48%.
That may be shocking to many legalization proponents, since it is a widely held belief that getting high makes you a better driver. Cathleen Lewis, director of public affairs for AAA Northeast, insists this just isn’t true. Experts on marijuana use and several studies have found the exact opposite—any substance that impacts your motor functions or cognitive skills can have a negative impact on your driving ability.
Even worse, New Jersey does not have an effective way to test for marijuana-related impairment. “[Marijuana] does not reach peak inebriation while it’s in your bloodstream,” said Lewis. “It does that when it’s in the fatty tissues in your brain. There’s not going to be a good way to test that.”
With enforcement tools lacking, Lewis said, education is going to be key to preventing a spike in driving while high. AAA will host an impaired driving summit on Dec. 19 in Hamilton, which will include speakers from Colorado ready to share the mistakes they’ve made and how they are working to fix it.
“Almost every state that has legalized marijuana has not dealt with traffic safety concerns at the same time as legalization,” Lewis said. “That means they are scrambling two, three years later on how to address those concerns.”
Driving under the influence of marijuana in NJ is a violation under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, the same statute that defines drunk driving. The penalties for a conviction are the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. Drivers face a possible fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail. They could also have their driving privileges suspended for up to one year.
If you or someone you love has been arrested for DUID or for any other kind of serious traffic violation in New Jersey or New York, you need the help of an expert attorney right away. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are experienced traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email or call 888-203-2619 for a free consultation about your case.