Following the 2012 referendum that legalized medicinal marijuana in Massachusetts, the state is still preparing guidelines for yet-to-be-opened marijuana dispensaries.
However in the meantime, a new Boston Globe report indicates that doctors - from psychiatrists to gynecologists to pain specialists - have opened offices throughout the state for the primary purpose of evaluating patients for the approved use of marijuana.
Our Boston accident lawyers recognize that this is contrast to what many assumed would happen, which was that people would simply consult with their regular doctor to determine whether they might benefit from the drug. Instead, entire niche offices are apparently devoted to the cause - which raises our concern that the drug might be heavily abused.
How dangerous is driving under the influence of marijuana?
Concerns over drug-impaired drivers are not unfounded. Consider a recent report conducted by the Center for Injury and Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Researchers there found that fatal crashes involving drivers with marijuana in their systems had tripled over the course of a decade.
Whereas 4 percent of drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents in 1999 tested positive for marijuana, by 2010, that figure had ballooned to 12 percent. That's an increase of 300 percent.
Of course, it's worth noting that because marijuana stays in one's system for a week or more after consumption, presence of the drug only indicated use - not necessarily intoxication or impairment.
But this is precisely the problem when it comes to enforcement of laws regarding impaired driving and marijuana. With alcohol consumption, the presence of alcohol in one's blood stream in certain amounts is a reliable indicator of intoxication because of how quickly alcohol is processed by the body. But because marijuana lingers longer in the body, urine or even blood tests aren't necessarily accurate indicators of intoxication. That means that police more often have to rely on subjective cues, such as red eyes, apparent cognitive deficiencies and even the suspect's own confession.
Marijuana impairment difficult to prove
Because marijuana DUI is tougher to prove, users may feel emboldened. Worse, some consider it a safe alternative to alcohol when driving. However, marijuana impairment affects the brain in much the same way alcohol does. A person who is high suffers from reduced reaction times and impaired judgment - which can be a deadly combination for motor vehicle operators.
Colorado, one of just two states so far to approve marijuana for purposes of recreation, has therefore enacted one of the toughest marijuana DUI laws on the books. Anyone who is caught with 0.05 nanograms or more of the drug in their system can be arrested for DUI.
The state recently invested $1 million in advertisements to remind people that driving stoned is a crime.
Washington state, which has also legalized marijuana for recreation, is considering a similar measure.
Here in Massachusetts, doctors have already certified hundreds of patients to grow or purchase the drug. Also, a company out of California that produces the drug now has a branch in Framingham, and administrators there have said that it has 1,000 approved patients so far.
Whether this kind of system will thrive remains to be seen. So far, the Massachusetts Medical Society has voiced grave concern over doctors offices that are open for the sole purpose of providing access to one particular drug. This creates a clear conflict of interest for doctors, especially in cases where the drug may not even be in the best interest of the patient.
Boston accident victims may contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1.