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Mixed Bag: Teen Drunk Driving Down, Drugged Driving Up

by | Sep 18, 2013

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that nearly 30 percent of high school seniors admitted to driving after using drugs in the past two weeks, or riding in a vehicle with someone who has.

D.C. DUI defense lawyers know that this conflicts sharply with what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported late last yer in its annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. That data indicated that drunk driving among teens had plummeted by roughly 55 percent over the last two decades.

The conclusion is that more young people are engaging in the consumption of marijuana versus alcohol. It’s worth noting that a separate study recently found that while more Americans as a whole are smoking pot – and those intoxicated by marijuana can be just as dangerous behind the wheel as those who are drunk – cannabis consumers are less likely to drive than drinkers. They are therefore less likely to be arrested for DUI.

However, we might see that change soon in D.C. Not only has the district recently seen the opening of its first legal medical marijuana dispensary, D.C. Councilman David Grosso has announced his intention to introduce a bill that would legalize marijuana for recreational purchase and consumption as well.

Under Grosso’s bill, individuals over the age of 21 could buy and consume marijuana without fear of any civil penalty. There would also be provisions for regulation and taxing, and the alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration would be charged with overseeing both farmers and distribution centers.

Marijuana arrests on the whole have been on the rise in recent years, particularly in D.c. The Metro Police Department reported that they had made 5,759 marijuana-related arrests in 2010, with the American Civil Liberties Union noting that black people were eight times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana crimes in the district.

It’s not clear how many of those were DUI-related.

The recent study focusing on marijuana consumption among high schoolers, released by the University of Michigan as part of the Monitoring Future project, was based on responses from some 17,000 high school seniors.

This year, those results indicate that more than a quarter of teens reported riding in a vehicle in which the driver had recently consumed marijuana. While males were more likely than females to drive after drinking, there was no gender difference when it came to operating a vehicle after consuming marijuana, the study authors said.

The questionnaires, which were confidential, did not press students on how much marijuana they smoked. This is one of those questions that can matter a great deal in terms of marijuana DUI cases because, unlike alcohol, there is no comparable DUI standard in determining how much marijuana consumption is too much.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Parents of teens who are arrested for drug-related DUI offenses in D.C. should contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.