State Police See Crashes Linked to Recreational Marijuana

54% of users surveyed say they would benefit from more information on how cannabis affects their driving.

Recreational marijuana is a budding industry in Michigan, having been legal here since 2018.

April 20 – or “4/20” is considered a holiday by many people who use marijuana – and by those who work in the industry. But it’s also a time to highlight how cannabis impacts those who use it.  9&10’s Bill Froehlich talked with Michigan State Police about the effects of the drug on your driving.

MSP Lt. Derrick Carroll says, “We have seen an increase since it became recreational instead of just medical.” State Police compiled data for 9&10 News. “We wanted to compare apples to apples so we took the same time period prior to recreational use being legalized, when it was just medical marijuana. To a timeframe after, with recreational use. That’s when we saw a spike in crashes.”

Msp State Police“I compared the crash stats. And actually we had an increase of 140% of total crashes with marijuana use… And a 430% increase in injury crashes involving cannabis use.” But it’s not just those types of crashes that hit a high – the numbers also show a 640% increase in property damage accidents.

A survey from “The Zebra” – an insurance comparison website, shows 57% of cannabis users decide to drive based on ‘how they feel’. Lt. Carroll says, “While it is legal for recreational use for those 21 and over, if you do not know the effects of marijuana on you, do not drive.”

The Zebra survey shows 54% say they try not to drive under the influence, but they still do sometimes. “Just like alcohol, it’s the field sobriety tests we run people through. If they’ve been involved in a crash and we suspect they are impaired or are under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, marijuana. And we will use those to determine their impairment level.”

And 35% of those who have been cited by police admit they were under the influence at the time. The numbers don’t just affect those who use cannabis. “This affects the rates we pay for vehicle insurance in Michigan. So all these statistics, all this data with all other data out there, affects our insurance rates in Michigan.”Msp State Police 2

State Police say if you don’t know the impact marijuana would have on you or your system, it’s simple: don’t get behind the wheel. “The law is you cannot drive while impaired or under the influence of any drug, narcotic, or alcohol. So if you’re under the influence you can be arrested. Marijuana use does impair your judgment. That’s why just like alcohol, a lot of people think they’re okay to drive,” Lt. Carroll says.

“People who are using marijuana say they drive better, they drive slower. But recent data shows most people arrested for driving while high, their initial traffic stop is for speeding. What actually slows is their reflexes and their ability to drive and their judgment. It’s not that they’re driving slower, but their actions are slower.” Carroll says that shows signs of impairment. “That’s because your judgment is impaired. And you’re not making the right decisions.” He adds, “If you’re planning on using recreational marijuana, you need to be at a place you’re not going to be traveling, you’re not going to be driving. Have a designated driver.”

To put it bluntly: “If you don’t know the effects marijuana is going to have on you, or you’re not sure of the effects… don’t drive. Don’t drive after using marijuana…. Just don’t do it and hit the roadways and make everyone else at risk.”

Lt. Carroll also says MSP have test-piloted a roadside oral fluid tester. That data has now gone to the legislature for discussion on procedures and testing for Michigan drivers.

From “The Zebra”:

Although Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2018, research about the effects of this drug while driving is limited. In advance of 4/20, a new report from The Zebra surveyed cannabis users in all 14 states (and D.C.) where it’s recreationally legal to figure out personal habits and guidelines for driving after consuming cannabis, experiences driving while high, and the desire for laws regarding driving while high.

Key findings for Michigan include:

  • There is no clear-cut way to judge impairment. Over half (57%) of cannabis users in Michigan decide to drive based on how they feel, but 34% typically wait 1-4 hours after cannabis use.
  • Most drivers do take proactive steps to prevent cannabis DUI. About half (49%) of cannabis users never allow themselves to drive under the influence, while an additional 38% of respondents are very likely to plan a ride before consuming cannabis.
  • But, there are exceptions. While most Michigan drivers (74%) didn’t have a driving violation in the past year, 35% of those who were cited said they were under the influence of cannabis at the time. Also, over half (54%) of MI drivers say they try not to drive under the influence, but do sometimes.
  • But, drivers crave legislative guidance on cannabis use and driving. Only 40% of users say they are very likely to know their state’s cannabis and driving laws, and over half (54%) say they would personally benefit from more information on how cannabis affects driving.