Recreational and Medical Marijuana Driving in California

car accident stoned marijuana

Everyone with a driver license in California knows that driving while drunk is illegal and the driver faces severe legal consequences. Driving under the influence leads to car accidents, property damage, and personal injury and in some cases fatalities.

If you were involved in a car accident and the other driver was under the influence contact an attorney that has the experience to ensure that you get the help, repair or replace your car, get you the medical treatment and ensure that you are able to recover from injuries.

Drunk Driving & Driving Stoned

Drunk driving is less of an issue then it used to be, driving while under the influence of marijuana is much less talked about, but is just as dangerous and still illegal.

As of January 1st, recreational marijuana has been made legal in California. It is legal to purchase marijuana for both medical and recreational use while driving it back to one’s home. Going anywhere other than directly home after buying marijuana is considered a felony and consumption is only allowed in one’s private residence.

With its recent legalization, driving after consuming pot has become much more common in California. Similarly, to alcohol, while using is legal, driving while under the influence is not.

According to, “A recent study of marijuana use and car accidents, fatal crashes involving stoned drivers have tripled over the last ten years.”

The report, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that the incidence of car accident victims with pot in their systems jumped from 4.2 percent to 12.2 percent in 2010.

How Can You Tell When Someone is Driving Under Influence?

Police pull over drivers they believe may be under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Checkpoints are set up by police on roads to evaluate drivers and confirm sobriety.

Breathalyzers can be used to measure the alcohol content in one’s blood and are a valuable tool in the fight against drunk driving. Unfortunately, there is currently no breathalyzer-equivalent when it comes to marijuana.

Police look at the manner of drivers to see if they are high, as well as smelling the car for the odor of marijuana. They look for things such as droopy or red eyes. Even by doing this, there is no way to check how recently someone has consumed marijuana.

For this reason, it is difficult for police to determine someone is driving while under the influence. Some marijuana consumers feel as though it is not very dangerous and that they drive safer while under the effects of marijuana. Driving under the influence of any substance is illegal, harmful to the driver and other on the road.

Driving While Stoned

According to, “About 70 percent of people polled said that people who drive while impaired by marijuana are ‘not much of a problem’ or only a ‘somewhat serious problem,’ whereas just 29 percent said it was a problem.

By contrast, 79 percent of Americans think drivers who are impaired by alcohol are a severe problem. Driving while under the influence of marijuana is very dangerous. A study conducted at the International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety found that “marijuana impairs all the cognitive abilities needed for safe driving, including tracking, motor coordination, visual function and divided attention.” It is recommended to wait at least 8 hours before operating a vehicle after the consumption of marijuana, so the effects are diminished and to avoid car accidents or serious injury to self and others.

Though the dangers of driving stoned are known, many people ignore the law and do it anyway. A driver on the road has responsibility for their actions and not the actions of others. For this reason, watching for signs of intoxicated driving can be the difference between life and death.

Common mistakes made by drivers under the influence of marijuana include driving too slowly or quickly, swerving between lanes, and wrong turns. Car accidents happen unexpectedly and can cause severe injuries to the driver, pedestrians or even property damage.

The legal implications of driving under the influence of any drugs or alcohol are severe financially and may result in fines, jail time and driving license suspension. California has strict laws governing such behavior.

According to, “Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in car accidents, including fatal ones.

Two large European studies found that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol.” Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal and unsafe.