Is Medical Marijuana Use by Colorado Drivers Increasing?

Lakewood, Colorado Personal Injury Lawyer Serving Denver, Boulder, and Nearby Areas

Posted: May 22, 2017

Personal injury victims of drunk drivers and other car accidents related to intoxication have the same rights as other plaintiffs. But one additional aspect of these cases is the added evidence of negligence that a criminal conviction can provide.

Recent data released by the Colorado Department of Transportation suggests that marijuana use by drivers has increased. In 2007, 28 percent of suspected drivers who tested positive for drugs were found to have used marijuana. That number climbed to 43 percent in 2008, rose slightly to 45 percent in 2009, and shot up to 58 percent in 2010.

Reports from local law enforcement corroborate those figures. “What we’re seeing is an increase, maybe, of marijuana in the car,” Longmont Police Sgt. Mike Bell told the Times-Call. “We’re definitely seeing an increase in people who try to use medical marijuana as an excuse, although they have nothing to do with medical marijuana.”

Drugged driving leads to serious harm on state streets and highways: over the four years in question, more than 16 percent of the fatal motor vehicle accidents in Colorado involved a driver who tested positive for drugs. Just as important, thousands of motorists and passengers suffer severe brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as other harm with a lifelong impact.

Even though medical marijuana use may be legal, clear evidence of intoxication behind the wheel must lead to accountability and compensation for injury victims and survivors of a wrongful death. Drivers who are involved in accidents and notice signs of drug use in the other driver – including glassy or red eyes, incoherent speech or the telltale smell of cannabis – should inform responding officers and make notes of their observations for future reference.

Evidence of Drug Use: A Two-Edged Sword

Evidence of intoxication is one thing – evidence of drugs in a driver’s system is another. Any driver who tests positive for drugs after suspicion of intoxication in an accident may face difficulties regarding assessment of blame. In many cases, professional drivers who are injured in truck accidents are automatically tested by their employers.

Even if an accident was clearly not a professional driver’s fault, evidence of off-the-job drug use can lead to firing and termination of ongoing workers’ compensation wage loss benefits. A Denver car accident lawyer who understands the complexities of workplace injuries and motor vehicle accidents can help clients protect their legal interests and explore all sources of compensation.