Personal Injury Lawyers for Car Accident Victims
Marijuana is now decriminalized in Virginia. While possession of small amounts of the drug is still illegal, the maximum penalties associated with marijuana have dropped to a $25 civil fine. While the change has given many people reason to celebrate, decriminalization has its critics. The number of car accidents involving drivers under the influence of marijuana will inevitably go up. While possession may be decriminalized, use of mind-altering substances remains illegal while driving.
Decriminalization in Virginia
As of July 2020, Virginia has decriminalized marijuana possession. If you’re caught with a half ounce or less of marijuana on your person, you can expect to face fines of $25. This is considered major progress for cannabis enthusiasts, as previous penalties included fines up to $500 as well as jail time and driver’s license suspensions. While police may still search cars and possessions if they smell the drug, a small fine is the only real consequence for recreational users.
More serious penalties are at stake for those who distribute marijuana. Growing the plant or possessing more than a half ounce can land a person in prison. Even those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana can be charged with felony distribution. This is especially true when police find associated paraphernalia like scales or plastic bags that are often used for dealing.
The Push for Legalization
Many Virginians say the decriminalization of marijuana is just the beginning. As more and more states pass legislation legalizing the drug, American attitudes begin to shift. What was once perceived to be a dangerous drug is now commonly believed to be harmless. As with many such debates, the truth likely lies somewhere in between.
Virginia legislators opted not to pursue marijuana legalization in this year’s sessions. They plan to study the issue and revisit the decision in 2021. For now, the only legal way to obtain the drug will be through the state’s medical marijuana program. The first dispensaries will open their doors later this year.
Marijuana’s Impact on Drivers
Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. While marijuana has a reputation of being mellow and harmless, the reality isn’t as innocuous. Like any mind-altering substance, marijuana can be incredibly harmful when used in the wrong setting. Just like with alcohol, driving under the influence of marijuana alters your abilities and makes you more likely to get into an accident.
To understand how decriminalization might impact Virginia drivers, look no farther than Washington. The crash data before and after the legalization of marijuana is very telling. An estimated 21 percent of drivers in all fatal crashes in 2017 were THC-positive. That’s higher than any other year in the previous decade before marijuana was legalized.
Virginia’s Marijuana Driving Laws
In states that have “per se” DUI driving laws, motorists with certain levels of THC in their blood as considered under the influence. Generally, these laws spell out the specific threshold required for a marijuana-related DUI arrest. Other states prohibit driving with any amount of marijuana consumption. Anyone at or above the legal limit can be convicted of a DUI.
Virginia has not set a per se limit for marijuana, nor has any testing been developed for police to measure THC levels in the blood the way they might for traditional DUIs. While it is still considered illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana, there is much that remains undecided about the enforcement of such laws on suspected marijuana DUI drivers.
Were You Hit by a Marijuana DUID Driver?
Marijuana impairs drivers. Driving after using marijuana can and does lead to fatal accidents. No matter your personal feelings about the legalization of marijuana, we can all agree that the drug presents new and dangerous challenges for Virginia motorists.
If you’ve been involved in a crash caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana, you have legal recourse. Our team is dedicated to ensuring that accident victims aren’t stuck footing the bill because of someone’s carelessness behind the wheel. As the victim of a marijuana DUID car accident, you deserve a lawyer who will fight for your rights. The negligent driver and their insurance company are responsible for your damages – and we’ll help hold them liable.
Contact personal injury attorney Richard Serpe for a free consultation.