Investigative report examines the intersection of medical marijuana and drugged driving | Eastern North Carolina Now

By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
March 29, 2024

A new investigative report highlighting a surge in “drugged driving” in North Carolina should cause state legislators to re-evaluate their stances on marijuana and other types of drugs that can cause impairment, a pro-family activist says.

The WRAL-TV investigative report found that law enforcement officers in North Carolina are “seeing an increase in drivers who are impaired by drugs.”

“Driving drunk is quickly being replaced with driving drugged,” the report said.

Sgt. Devin Rich with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol told WRAL he has seen a “lot more” problems in recent months with impaired driving due to drugs — most often involving marijuana, prescription pills and sometimes even THC products bought at gas stations.

The legal problem, Rich said, is that “drugged driving” is not as easy to measure as is drunk driving. The latter can be measured with a blood test. The former, though, has a legal gray area.

“It’s never easy,” Rich said. “It’s just you see more and more things so you know what to look for.”

Rich is one of 170 members of the highway patrol who are certified to investigate impairments involving drugs. Such certified members of the patrol are known as Drug Recognition Experts (DRE), WRAL reported.

When a trooper determines that drugs likely are involved in a crash, a DRE is called to the scene. A DRE first examines bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate and pupil size. A blood test is then given.

He said of over-the-counter THC: “They’re not specifically regulated. They may not know what they’re getting. We have seen people who thought they were using Delta 8 and it comes back as Delta 9 in a high level.”

In February, a father was killed on the side of the road, in front of his wife and children when a 19-year-old impaired driver hit him. Law enforcement said the teen had been using marijuana. The accident took place in Duplin County.

“We can’t believe it,” the father’s sister-in-law, Estefany Gonzalez, told WRAL. “Sometimes we think it’s just a dream, but he will never come back.”

A 2022 AAA report found that driving under the influence of alcohol was up 24 percent and cannabis up 14 percent.

“The reversal in the frequency of US drivers engaging in risky driving behavior is disturbing,” David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a Fortune news story. “While drivers acknowledge that certain activities behind the wheel – like speeding and driving impaired — are not safe, many still engage in these activities anyway.”

Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the WRAL report should be viewed by every legislator. A bill that would have legalized medicinal marijuana in North Carolina passed the state Senate last year but failed to gain a vote in the House. Creech and other opponents of the bill warned it would be used as a stepping stone to the legalization of recreational marijuana.

“Considering the current state of affairs, it’s evident that the issue of driving under the influence of marijuana is not receiving sufficient attention among U.S. adults,” Creech said. “Although 8 out of 10 individuals acknowledge the lack of news coverage regarding driving high, an alarming 76 percent believe that the situation could deteriorate with the legalization of marijuana in more states. This sentiment underscores the critical need for additional information and research.

“Given these concerns and the potential for an increase in instances of driving high, it becomes imperative for North Carolina to exercise caution in legalizing medical marijuana,” Creech said. “Without comprehensive data and measures in place to mitigate the risks associated with impaired driving, legalization could exacerbate road safety concerns and jeopardize public welfare. Therefore, until there is a clearer understanding of the implications and effective strategies to address them, it would be prudent for North Carolina to refrain from legalizing medical marijuana.”


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( April 3rd, 2024 @ 1:27 pm )
I agree wholeheartedly, Stormy. These people hollering about "the devil's lettuce" have no idea what they're talking about.
Stormy said:
( March 30th, 2024 @ 10:53 am )
Adults know the difference in right and wrong. Myself I agree with the dd should be charged is right. But it is wrong not to allow the adults the right to smoke weed if they choose to. I'm 420 all day, everyday. It should be recreational in NC, not medical. Let us smoke up if we choose to. Smoke up America, recreational in all states

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