The Maryland legislature recently introduced a bill “essentially legalizing recreational use” of marijuana in Maryland, as one news source reported. In 2014, Maryland legalized the medical use of marijuana and also decriminalized less than 10 grams of cannabis. Similar bills have been previously introduced in the state, but none have passed. The recently proposed bill would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults 21 years and older. The bill would also allow for the release of individuals incarcerated for marijuana convictions and the expungement of previous records. Proponents say it would increase the state’s tax revenue and promote social justice. However, others claim that the legalization of marijuana would result in an increase in Maryland car accidents and injuries.
According to a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, after marijuana became legal in Washington state, fatal car accidents involving drivers who had recently used marijuana doubled. The organization also reported an increase in insurance claims in Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada after legalization in those states. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have now legalized marijuana for recreational use. Studies have found varying results on the effects of the legalization of marijuana. One study published by the National Institutes of Health found that three years after the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado motor vehicle crash fatality rates were not statistically different from those in similar states without legalization. However, as referenced, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana in Washington state has doubled since legalization. Another study published in the journal BMJ Open in 2019 found that after legalization in Colorado, car accidents increased 10 percent, and increases in alcohol abuse and overdoses that resulted in injury or death increased by 5 percent. The state legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012.
If someone is injured in a Maryland car accident, they may be able to seek compensation. In a Maryland car accident case alleging that a motor vehicle driver was negligent, the plaintiff must prove that the driver owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the driver’s actions amounted to a breach of the relevant standard of care, that the driver’s negligent actions caused the plaintiff injuries (being both the cause-in-fact and a legally cognizable cause), and that the plaintiff suffered damages. A plaintiff must prove all of the elements in a negligence claim, and the plaintiff has the burden of proving each element by a preponderance of the evidence.