As medical marijuana becomes more widely available, government authorities and safety experts are debating how to establish legal impairment levels for those who get behind the wheel after smoking pot.
While authorities are pushing for a legal threshold, much like the blood-alcohol standard used for suspected drunk drivers, marijuana poses a unique challenge. Unlike alcohol, marijuana remains in the blood long after a user's high wears off. Furthermore, there is no quick test to determine a driver's level of impairment. Researchers have been able to develop a saliva test to detect recent marijuana use, but officials argue that it still does not address the question of impairment.
In light of last month's study which revealed that marijuana use doubles the risk of car accidents for people who smoke three to four hours before driving, safety advocates are pushing for a quick resolution to the growing trend of drugged drivers. Until then, lawmakers are considering measures that would put legal limits in place for the amount marijuana an individual could have in their bloodstream when driving even if they aren't impaired.
Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place that allow patients with a valid doctor's prescription and qualifying medical condition to purchase marijuana for therapeutic purposes. Additionally, another 18 states, including Pennsylvania, have pending legislation, which, if passed, would legalize medical marijuana.