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Recent Study Looks at Effects of Legalized Medical Marijuana

A University of Colorado Denver study that examined a possible correlation between the legalization of medical marijuana and alcohol impaired driving has yielded surprising results. The study noted that fewer alcohol related deaths have occurred on the roadways since the legalization of medical marijuana.

The study found that the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes resulted in fewer people drinking alcohol and not as many alcohol impaired drivers on the road. Interestingly, no corresponding increase was noted in traffic deaths among those who drove after using marijuana.

While alcohol and marijuana both have impairing effects, the study found that individuals who were impaired by alcohol did not recognize they were impaired and often drove faster and more dangerously. In contrast, individuals impaired from smoking marijuana often thought they were impaired even when they were not. The drivers on marijuana consequently drove slower, kept more distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them, and generally tried to compensate for being impaired.

The study concluded that drivers who are intoxicated from drinking alcohol were more likely to drive while under the influence than those who had used marijuana.

While medical marijuana is legal in Colorado, the law does not allow the use of marijuana while in a vehicle, and driving while under the influence of marijuana (DUID) is illegal. In Colorado, a driver convicted of first-time DUID may be sentenced to large fines and jail time. In addition, driving privileges may be lost.

Driving while under the influence of marijuana or alcohol can have life altering consequences. Plan a safe way to get home before celebrating. Public transportation and walking are safe options for getting home. When a plan is not in place, paying for a cab after a night out may be one of the best investments you can make in your future.

Source: Slate, "DWI Versus DW-High," Brian Palmer, Nov. 30, 2011

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