According to a study authored by an Oregon Liquor Control Commission official, there has not been “a large spike or epidemic” of marijuana-related traffic fatalities in the state since legalizing cannabis for adult-use.
The study found that in 2004, when the state had only medical and illicit markets, there were 13 traffic fatalities involving cannabis. In 2015, that number increased slightly to 16.
Oregon, unlike Washington State and Colorado, does not have a THC-blood concentration limit for drivers under the state adult-use laws. If a police officer believes a driver is high on cannabis they will call in a “drug recognition expert” who will perform an evaluation, including asking questions and possibly taking a blood or urine sample. State officials decided against a blood limit for THC because it is fat soluble, meaning that it can be found in a human body for weeks after use.
In the report, T.J. Sheehy, the study author, found that THC-related fatal crashes are in fact on the rise in Colorado and Washington, but the numbers are dwarfed by the number of alcohol-related fatal crashes in those states.
Sheehy recommends increasing public education of the risks of cannabis and driving – particularly among teens, expanding the state’s drug recognition expert program, and compiling more comprehensive data.
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