Pubdate: Thu, 20 Aug 2015
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2015 Star Advertiser


SEATTLE - Marijuana use appears to have increased as a factor in 
deadly crashes last year in Washington.

New data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission show the 
number of drivers involved in fatal crashes with THC in their bodies 
increased to 75 this past year from 38 in 2013. About half of those 
75 drivers had active THC - the main psychoactive chemical in pot - 
above the level that legally determines intoxication.

"We have seen marijuana involvement in fatal crashes remain steady 
over the years and then it just spiked in 2014," said Dr. Staci Hoff, 
the commission's research director, in a statement.

Commission staff aren't sure why.

One obvious reason is that state-regulated pot stores opened in 2014, 
providing access to legal weed. But the first few stores didn't open 
until July, and their supply was scarce. Seattle saw only one shop 
selling pot until late September.

What's more, there were more marijuana-involved fatal crashes in the 
first half of 2014, before stores opened, than in the second half of the year.

There are other confounding factors. Half of the drivers with active 
THC in their blood also were under the influence of alcohol, and the 
majority of those were legally intoxicated.

"We're not saying A equals B," said commission spokeswoman Shelly 
Baldwin about the link between fatal crashes and marijuana use. 
"We're saying this is a factor. We look for trends and this is a 
trend we're seeing."

A follow-up report in September should provide more detail, she said.

- - Seattle Times
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom