How Has Cannabis Legalization Affected Car Accidents in Illinois?

Auto Accidents
How Has Cannabis Legalization Affected Car Accidents in Illinois?

How Has Cannabis Legalization Affected Car Accidents in Illinois?

In 2020, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize cannabis (i.e., marijuana) for “recreational” use. Customers can only legally possess up to 30 grams–roughly 1 ounce–of marijuana purchased from a state-licensed dispensary. They can also purchase certain cannabis-infused products, such as edibles, with concentrations of no more than 500 milligrams of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. Use of marijuana and cannabis products is further restricted to a person’s home or on-site at certain businesses.

Even with all of those qualifiers, however, more people purchasing and using marijuana legally means more people operating motor vehicles while high. This has already had a demonstrable effect on automobile accidents in other states that have previously legalized cannabis. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported in 2021 that car crash rates “spiked with the legalization of recreational marijuana use and retail sales in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.”

How Marijuana Use Impacts Drivers

It is important to note that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law in Illinois. While we tend to associate DUI with drunk driving, the use of recreational drugs–including marijuana and THC edibles–can have many of the same deleterious effects on people who operate motor vehicles as alcohol. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “driving while stoned” can substantially impair a driver’s functioning in all of the following ways:

  • impaired coordination;
  • distorted perceptions; and
  • slowed reaction and decision-making time.

People often take marijuana to relax. But when you are behind the wheel of a car, you need to be alert and focused on the road and other vehicles around you. Any substance that alters a driver’s mental functioning significantly increases the risk of a preventable car accident. And when such accidents do occur, it is often innocent people who end up paying the price.

Driving While Stoned and Personal Injury Claims in Illinois

Illinois is a fault-based state when it comes to liability for a car accident. This means that if a driver is found to have caused an accident, even in part, due to the use of marijuana or another recreational drug, they can be held civilly liable for the injuries sustained by the victims of that accident. The fact that recreational marijuana has been legalized in Illinois is of no relevance. Indeed, a person can be found liable in a personal injury lawsuit for conduct that is not criminal.

So if you have been injured in a car crash and you suspect that cannabis-related impairment may have played a role, it is important to speak with a qualified Rolling Meadows auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. SAM LAW OFFICE LLC can investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding your accident and advise you of your rights when it comes to seeking compensation under the law. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.





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