Bay Area

Effects of legalized recreational marijuana on California roadways

OAKLAND (KRON) -- These drivers are on the road navigating cyclists, cars and obstacles while under the influence of marijuana.

As you can see, the cyclist is not a person and the vehicle, just a cut out, but the test is for real. Put together by Hound Labs, testers documented those under the influence and how they performed behind the wheel.

Hound Labs out of Oakland is working on developing a marijuana breathalyzer.

“We are in the early stages of manufacturing our device, it will be ready in the last part of the year,” said Doug Boxer with Hound Labs.

Boxer says fine tuning the device has been challenging.

“It turns out it is really hard to detect in breath,” he said. “THC is a billion times more sensitive. What we have been seeing is that more people have been showing up for work or driving under the influence, so while we tell people adult use is legal, it is not legal to drive while under influence or show up at work impaired and that is where our device fits in.”

For the California Highway Patrol, legalized recreational marijuana has lead to some alarming statistics.

“The Golden Gate division has been tracking and since 2017 to 2018,” said Rob Nackle with the CHP. “We have had a double the number of traffic accidents and arrests.”

Here is a closer look at those numbers for the nine Bay Area counties:

In 2017, a year before legalization, the CHP made 197 arrests for those caught driving under the influence of marijuana.

In 2018, the first full year of prop 64, there were 333 DUI marijuana arrests -- that is a 69 percent increase.

When it comes to traffic collisions that resulted in injury, the CHP handled seven cases in 2017 reported cases directly involving marijuana.

In 2018, that figured jumped to 19 -- that’s a 171 percent change. These figures do not include what is happening on city and county streets.

Sgt. Nacke says officers are receiving additional training on how to detect marijuana impaired drivers but adds, it is the public's responsibility that is critical for everyone's safety.

“This is all new, many people using for the first time, and we need to get out the message out that smoking or eating is socially unacceptable and could get you in jail or injury and no one needs that,” said the CHP sergeant.

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