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Marijuana legality does not protect drivers involved in crashes

Even if marijuana is legal, there's a responsibility that those who indulge have to assume. They must be responsible for their actions. If they decide to get behind the wheel and drive when they're impaired, they're putting themselves and others at risk of injury. That isn't fair to anyone.

Some people believe that making marijuana legal means it's safe to drive after using it. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. The legality of a substance has nothing to do with its ability to impair its users. Alcohol is legal, yet you certainly face penalties for driving with it in your system. The same applies to marijuana usage.

Marijuana poses a new legal challenge

Marijuana was legalized all over the state of California through Proposition 64. That isn't complete freedom to do as you wish with it, however. At the federal level, marijuana remains illegal. The moment you leave a state where it is legal, you could face serious penalties if you're caught driving under its influence. If you drive with it in your system in California and show signs of impairment, you can face penalties as well.

Age matters, too. Those age 21 and older may purchase up to an ounce of marijuana daily. But it's not legal to smoke or otherwise ingest cannabis when you're in public. Marijuana falls under some existing tobacco laws, making it illegal to smoke it where tobacco use is prohibited as well. That means that marijuana use is prohibited on school campuses, in bars, restaurants, hospitals and parks, as well as in other public buildings.

It is against the law to use any marijuana products while driving or riding in a vehicle. If you're caught with marijuana in your vehicle that is readily available to you and isn't sealed, you could face fines for the infraction. If you have ingested marijuana, it's a good idea to wait a period of time before driving. There's not a standard way to determine intoxication based on THC levels, but if a driver appears impaired and has THC showing up on tests, that's enough to lead to a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) just as when drivers are impaired by alcohol.

Those who worry about the increase in legal marijuana use should know that they have some basis for that fear. Using alcohol and marijuana together before driving does substantially increase the risk of accidents. Pay attention to the roads and do what you can to avoid a collision on your own. If you're hit, the legalization of marijuana will not protect the driver.

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