The fairly recent decriminalization of marijuana in Marylandhas opened a discussion about the ways it could affect driving abilities. Plenty of people seem to believe that they are “better drivers” when high – that it simply causes people to drive more slowly and cautiously. So what’s the big deal? Is driving while high really that bad?

Effects on Driving

Driving while under the influence of marijuana is much more dangerous than many Americans might think. While high, drivers’ judgments are impaired and their spatial senses and perceptions also become distorted. Additionally, these drivers move more slowly and have much slower reaction times. Believe it or not, this contributes to why high drivers are almost twice as likely to get into accidents than sober drivers. High drivers run a high risk of following cars too closely, braking too late, making unsafe turns, and reacting too slowly to avoid accidents.

Here’s an idea:

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Aside from the risk it poses to others on the road, driving high also poses a big risk to yourself – and your reputation. This is a fact that most Americans don’t seem to realize – in fact, earlier this year, the New York Times reported that many people think DUI laws don’t apply to marijuana.

If you are pulled over and a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence of drugs, you can be charged with a DUI. This is an extremely serious offense: the maximum penalty for a first-time DUI in Maryland is 1 year in jail and a $1000 fine. If transporting a minor, that maximum sentence doubles. The consequences can also be much higher if you or someone else has drugs in the car.

Decriminalization ≠ Legalization

Many people assume that the decriminalization of marijuana means that marijuana will be legal in Maryland. This is not true. Decriminalization means that the offense will be reduced from a criminal charge to a civil citation. (This is similar to a getting a traffic ticket) So, marijuana possession is still illegal; however, possession of less than 10 grams has simply been reduced to a lesser offense.

For more information about drug charges, learn more here.

For more information about DUI charges, learn more here.