Upcoming study to analyze marijuana use and driving behavior

States across the country vary widely in their laws regarding the use of marijuana — how much, if any, is allowed for personal consumption; whether a medical marijuana card can be obtained; whether strict or comparatively strict liability attaches to operating a motor vehicle with marijuana in a driver’s system; and so forth — and how local culture and attitudes perceive marijuana possession and use.

Georgia’s marijuana laws are comparatively strict, with drug possession charges for pot capable of bringing lengthy prison terms and fines. Marijuana possession with intent to distribute is routinely prosecuted harshly, and drug trafficking charges often result in a defendant serving many years behind bars. An experienced defense attorney can often help to ameliorate harsh outcomes.

A soon-to-be-conducted pot-related study at the University of Iowa under the auspices of the NHTSA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse will be deemed of interest to many Georgia residents and persons across the country.

The study will be the first ever to analyze the effects of marijuana use on driving performance, with its findings perhaps having future effects on both federal and states’ legislation and criminal sentencing outcomes.

As the study authors and others note, 17 states currently have “driving under the influence of drugs” enactments that make it illegal per se to drive or be in control of a vehicle with any amount of a prohibited substance in the motorist’s system. Georgia is one of those states.

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., also have legalized medical marijuana, which has raised questions and legal challenges concerning drivers’ impairment while operating motor vehicles. Georgia has not passed a law legalizing medical marijuana.

Thus, similar situations involving driving and marijuana use can be met with drastically different sentencing outcomes in the various states at present. Studies like the upcoming Iowa research are welcomed by many as a means to increase education about marijuana use, which might in turn promote discussion concerning rational legislation, enforcement and sentencing.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Study looks at driving under influence of pot,” Vanessa Miller, Sept. 9, 2012