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Legalization of Recreational Marijuana and the Impact on Car Accidents

As of July 1, 2021, it became legal for adults 21 years of age or older to possess, consume, and grow marijuana in Virginia. However, there is still no current legal way to purchase it, unless a person has a prescription from a physician under the state’s medical marijuana program.

The timing of the new law coincided with the release of two new studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute that both examined how vehicle accident rates have been impacted in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Some highlights of the studys' conclusions include the following:

  • In states where recreational marijuana use was legalized, there was a six percent increase in vehicle injury accident rates.
  • In states where recreational marijuana use was legalized, there was a four percent increase in fatal vehicle injury accident rates.
  • Drivers who had both marijuana and alcohol in their systems were five times more likely to sustain injuries in a crash serious enough to require hospitalization. This is a rate of 500 percent more than a sober driver’s risks. If the driver only had alcohol in their system, the rate was three times – or 300 percent more – than a sober driver’s risk.

Effect of Marijuana on a Driver

A driver who has used marijuana can have slower reflexes, reduced coordination, and impaired judgment, similar to the effect of alcohol. These issues can also significantly impact a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. When a driver gets behind the wheel after consuming marijuana, they not only put themselves in danger but also all the other people who are on the road with them. A victim who has been injured in a car accident caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana can pursue a personal injury claim against the impaired driver for the losses their injuries have caused them.

Let a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney Help

Although using recreational marijuana is now legal in Virginia, it is still a crime to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition to criminal charges, an impaired driver who causes an accident may also be responsible for economic, non-economic, and punitive damages for any victims who were injured in the crash or to the survivors of any victims killed in the crash.

Punitive damages are punishment for the driver for their reckless behavior. Injured victims or anyone who has lost a loved one in a car accident caused by a drugged driver should contact a skilled Virginia car accident attorney to find out what legal options they may have.

At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we have been advocating for injured clients since 1985 and will do all we can to ensure you receive the best possible outcome under the circumstances of your case. If you would like to meet with one of our skilled Virginia car accident attorneys to find out how we can help, call us today at 800-752-0042 for a free case evaluation.


Randall E. Appleton
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia