CHARLESTON, W.Va. — AAA, the American Automobile Association, is one of the organizations opposing moves to possibly legalize marijuana in West Virginia and other additional states for recreational uses.
“With the legalization of recreational use, it may increase the rate of THC-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes,” she said.
THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that causes the high.
New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed the numbers of drivers who tested positive for THC after fatal crashes more than doubled in Washington State in the five years after the drug was legalized there.
Between 2008 and 2012, there were 56 THC-positive drivers in Washington in deadly crashes.
From 2013 to 2017, the number was 130.
“We can make the assumption that there are more impaired drivers on the roads which increases the danger for everyone who is traveling, whether they’re going by car or walking or taking public transportation,” Moore said.
Washington is one of eleven states and Washington, D.C. where marijuana has been legalized for both recreational and medical uses.
Another 22 states have legalized it for medical uses only.
Depending on a number of factors, THC can be detected for days or weeks after marijuana use.
To try to address drug-impaired driving, steps have been taken in seven states to set legal, non-zero limits on the amount of THC drivers can have in their systems, so-called “per se” limits.”
AAA does not support such limits.
“Impairment is impairment and anytime someone is impaired and chooses to get behind the wheel of a car and drive, they’re endangering the lives of everybody,” Moore said.
“The chemical effects vary by user. We have to look at it from a problematic standpoint of, no matter when you use marijuana, you are still threatening the lives of everyone who is traveling (if you drive).”
In West Virginia, the state Office of Medical Cannabis is currently accepting applications from growers, processors, dispensers and others for medical marijuana.
Last week, several West Virginia House Democrats spoke out at the State Capitol in favor of expanding legalization to recreational marijuana.
They have asked Ed Gaunch, the state’s commerce secretary, to speed up a state economic study.
“An economic impact study is the first step in proving what we already know – West Virginians are ready for adult-use cannabis and expect our leaders to lead the way in providing jobs, revenue and a brighter future for our state,” Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) previously said.