“You go from an average of 56 drivers in the years prior to legalization up to 130 in the five years after,” Dodds said.
Before marijuana was legalized there in 2012, nearly 9% of drivers involved in fatal crashes were high. Between 2013 and 2017, that rose to 18%.
“Smoking marijuana, ingesting marijuana in any fashion and then driving is as bad as drinking and driving,” Mike Moran, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, said.
Just a couple years later, Oregon followed suit and legalized the drug. In 2015, the sheriff’s office says Jackson County had 18 drug-related DUIIs, but admit it doesn’t have specific data on the type of drug involved.
“The bulk of our drug DUIIs are marijuana,” Moran said.
For the next few years there was an increase in numbers, but in 2019 it fell to 23.
“It’s really more of a cognitive type of impairment, more mental impairment than a physical impairment like you would see with alcohol use,” Lt. Trevor Arnold, Medford Police, said.
Medford police say it too has seen a rise in marijuana on the roads since legalization. For drivers, police have one simple message.
“Impaired driving is impaired driving no matter if it’s a legal substance or an illegal substance,” Lt. Arnold said.
AAA plans to expand this same study to other states when there’s enough data to show a correlation.
Anna Weeks is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oregon State University with a degree in Digital Communication Arts and a minor in writing. Previously, she interned with the National Association of Broadcasters at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.
Originally from the Portland area, Anna is excited to explore Southern Oregon. In her free time, she can be found reading, running or watching sports.