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What You Need to Know about Marijuana and Car Accidents in New York

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Peter J. Gregory
Jun 1, 2022
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New York State recently legalized adult-use of cannabis, and provided for the eventual licensure of producers, distributors and retailers of marijuana. Adults aged 21 and over are allowed to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis or 0.85 ounces of concentrated cannabis. Public smoking of cannabis is allowed wherever cigarette smoking is permissible. Home cultivation of up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants per individual will be permitted, with a maximum of twelve plants per household, once regulations for home grow are in place. Medical use of cannabis remains permitted under certain circumstances. Along with these new permitted uses comes a great deal of responsibility for consumers to not get behind the wheel and drive after using marijuana products.

While uses in certain circumstances are permitted, there are still criminal penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana.  In New York, “driving under the influence” refers not only to alcohol intoxication, but to any substance that impairs your ability to drive. More specifically, Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (DWAI) under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1192(4) states: “No person shall operate a motor vehicle while the person’s ability to operate such a motor vehicle is impaired by the use of a drug as defined in this chapter.” The world “drug” includes cannabis. Furthermore, Section 1192(4-a) prohibits driving while impaired by both drugs and alcohol.

Criminal penalties are an important deterrent, because driving a vehicle under the influence of marijuana creates a danger to others on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana "negatively affects a number of skills required for safe driving." Specifically, marijuana has been linked to impaired coordination, memory loss, delayed reaction times, and difficulty problem solving.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported recent data that points to marijuana-impaired driving as the catalyst behind surges in crashes. Those states with legalized marijuana have higher rates of roadway incidents. States including Washington, Nevada, Oregon, California, and Colorado presented 6% increases in injury crash rates and 4% increases in fatalities from crashes. In other studies, where Emergency Room patients were interviewed and prompted about their marijuana use, 13% of crash-involved motorists tested positive for pot. In Washington State, fatal crashes involving marijuana-impaired drivers more than doubled in 2014, after marijuana was decriminalized.  

If you or a loved one was seriously injured by a driver under the influence of marijuana in a car accident, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney early to investigate your options, and preserve crucial evidence. For assistance with these matters, please contact us to learn more.

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About the author:  Peter J. Gregory is a partner with the firm.  He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience resolving disputes in state and federal trial courts. His personal injury practice focuses on advising clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Please feel free to contact him directly at pgregory@mccmlaw.com or (585) 512-3506.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.


About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.