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When Washington first took steps to legalize marijuana, one of the common concerns among those who opposed legalization was the potential for people to get behind the wheel while under the influence of marijuana. Research on the impact of marijuana on driving is unclear, which has contributed to uncertainty among many people regarding realistic safety standards for driving after using marijuana.

Many factors seem to influence whether or not someone can safely drive, including their tolerance, the dosage, how long since they consume the marijuana and road conditions. However, perhaps the single most dangerous risk factor for marijuana users getting behind the wheel is whether they have consumed any other mind-altering substance.

Mixing multiple substances can produce unpredictable consequences

The combination of multiple psychoactive substances in the human body can have unpredictable results. Many times, alcohol and marijuana can synergistically interact, resulting in more significant impairments than if the individual had simply consumed one substance or the other. The same is absolutely true of those who mix narcotic painkillers with marijuana or alcohol.

Given the controversial status of marijuana legalization, reporters and journalists looking to drive reader or viewer engagement might focus on the presence of marijuana in the body of someone who causes a crash, while only briefly mentioning the fact that the driver had either alcohol or painkillers in their bloodstream as well. The careful reading of many news stories about so-called stoned drivers will often show that they were also drunk or on additional drugs at the time of the crash.

Drugged and drunk drivers endanger everyone else

There has been a troubling increase in the number of people who admit to driving after using marijuana. Although some people claim they can drive safely while under the influence of marijuana, that claim becomes far more dubious when the person has consumed other substances prior to driving. Many people under the influence of alcohol also believe they can safely drive until they cause a crash that has tragic consequences.

Anyone who gets hurt or loses a loved one because of a stoned driver or someone on a cocktail of drugs can likely take civil action against the driver who caused the crash, regardless of whether the state prosecuted them. Just because a driver’s blood alcohol concentration wasn’t high enough to force an arrest doesn’t mean that the combination of substances in their bloodstream wasn’t dangerously intoxicating.