Research Finds Fatal Crashes Involving Marijuana Use Increase After State Legalizes Drug

Percentage of THC-Positive Drives has doubled since recreational use was legalized.

Towson, MD – New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has identified an increase in fatal THC-related crashes in Washington since the state legalized recreational marijuana.

Research found from 2008 to 2012 before the drug was legal, an estimated 8.8% of Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes were positive for THC. That rate rose to 18% between 2013 and 2017.

“AAA believes the increase certainly raises important traffic safety concerns for drivers across the country,” AAA Spokesperson Ragina Ali said. “because recreational marijuana use is now legal in 11 states as well as Washington D.C.”

The study said in the five years before legalization, an average of 56 Washington state drivers involved in fatal crashes each year were THC-positive. In the five years after legalization, the average jumped to 130.

No legislation has been put forward for the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Maryland, but a bipartisan group of lawmakers formed a group in 2019 to research possible legalization in the future.

Ali said driving under the influence of marijuana is harder for police to enforce in comparison to drunk driving because of the reduced availability of testing for impairment.

“A lot of the chemical effects vary by user and THC testing often cannot be done until hours after a crash,” Ali said. “Those are just some of the challenges that law enforcement faces as it relates to the legalization of marijuana and dealing with impaired driving.”

A AAA survey revealed that an estimated 14.8 million drivers report getting behind the wheel within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days.

By Timothy Young