Legalization of marijuana for recreational use has been a hot topic in New Jersey in 2019. Medical marijuana is already widely – and legally – used in New Jersey; and, in the absence of the required votes to legalize recreational marijuana, NJ Governor Philip Murphy pledged to expand medical marijuana by 700 percent, according to a May 2019 NY Times article. Supporters of efforts to make recreational marijuana use legal have been in a race against neighboring New York proponents, each group seeking bragging rights as the progressive ‘first’ between the two to bring legalization – and tax benefits – to their states.
But opponents, and proponents as well, wonder, will the legalization of marijuana lead to an increase in dangerous cases of driving under the influence (DUI) charges in New Jersey?
What does the data from other US States tell us on DUIs and Legalization of Marijuana?
To find the answer to this question, legislators in New Jersey have looked to other states that have already legalized marijuana for recreational use, including California, Washington, and Colorado. Although National Highway Patrol statistics have shown a small, temporary rise in cases of DUI in these states since the legalization of recreational marijuana use, it is difficult to determine a direct correlation between the law and a potentially sustained rise in DUIs.
A 2012 study by the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine reported that a meta-analysis suggested that “marijuana use by drivers is associated with a significantly increased risk of being involved in motor vehicle crashes.”
Tying Rising Numbers of DUIs to Marijuana Has Been Nearly Impossible
Tying rising numbers of DUIs directly to marijuana legality – and use – has been a nearly impossible correlation to make for authorities. This is because, unlike blood alcohol levels, which are only affected for hours after drinking, the chemical compound in marijuana that is identifiable in blood tests, THC, stays in one’s system for up to a month. Therefore, an officer cannot utilize only a THC-positive blood test to prove that the driver was high at the time of the incident.
The National Highway Patrol has echoed this warning against using positive blood tests to charge drivers with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
Despite the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2017 report to the U.S. Congress requesting a study of the impact of marijuana use on driver impairment, no solid results have been disseminated or procedural actions are taken to that end.
It is Difficult to Prove Impairment – Blood Tests Could Result in No Conviction
When a New Jersey driver is pulled over for reckless driving and authorities suspect that weed intoxication has played a role, they face a tough decision of whether to move forward with a DUI arrest, even if the blood test shows traces of THC in the driver’s system, because a DUI charge may result in a false conviction later overturned by a judge upon being argued by the defendant’s attorney.
Nicolas Scutari, New Jersey legislator from Union County who sponsored the bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use with Stephen Sweeney of Gloucester County, also noted that there are more accurate ways than a blood test to determine whether a driver was under the influence of marijuana, including breathalyzers and field sobriety tests, as reported in an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The article also noted that legal measures being debated in Trenton to reduce advertisement that would promote over-consumption or consumption by minors – two conditions that could increase the risk for dangerous driving situations.
Contact Our Monmouth County Drug Crime Attorneys Today
If you have been charged with a DUI in New Jersey due to a blood test showing THC in your system, please do not hesitate to reach out to a skilled member of our legal team today to discuss your rights and next steps.
At Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh we have built a solid reputation for fiercely representing our clients in communities such as Long Branch, Red Bank, Freehold, Wall, Asbury Park, Middletown, Howell and all over Monmouth County. Our founding partner Charles J. Uliano leads the criminal division of the firm and is ready to be a zealous advocate for you as you navigate a very critical time in your life.
For additional information as to how our Monmouth County defense attorneys can assist you or someone you love in combating the State’s case against drug charges, distribution charges and any other criminal offense, contact us via a simple email form or give us a call at the West Long Branch, New Jersey office at 732-440-3950.