Medical Marijuana and Driving:
How Could It Affect Your Insurance?
Driving under the influence of a controlled substance is punishable by law in all 50 states. And while there isn’t much data on the correlation between medical marijuana use and traffic accidents just yet, it is known that 16% of motor vehicle crashes involve illegal and legal drugs.
Marijuana continues to be a somewhat elusive substance for consideration, as the scientific research regarding impairment and the discussions of legalization are still evolving. For this reason, driving impairment regulations and insurance policies are primarily determined by alcohol use behind the wheel (which accounts for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S. each year).
Recent moves in Marijuana
In 2020, regulators removed marijuana from Schedule I substances under the United States Controlled Substances Act, which decriminalized use on the federal level. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains that there is no federally accepted medical use of the substance.
The power of legalization remains at the state level. In the U.S., 37 states allow the use of cannabis products for medical purposes as of Feb. 3, 2022.
As medicinal and recreational marijuana legalization becomes more common, the insurance world is buzzing about how this will impact premiums, collision coverage, and everything in between. However, drivers under the influence of any substance could be charged with a DUI and could see higher auto insurance rates or lose their policy altogether.
There is currently no equivalent to a breathalyzer (used for alcohol impairment assessment) to measure levels of THC in one’s system immediately following an accident. However, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered a reliable, non-invasive procedure that uses brain imaging to assess performance impairment from THC.
If onsite measurement was possible, it could increase the likelihood of a DUI if you have significant THC in your system, as there would not be any additional time for the effects to wear off between incident and assessment.
In most cases but certainly not all, your insurance will cover your accident/collision claim even if you are a driver found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is because while you intentionally drove under the influence, the assumption is that you did not get deliberately cause the accident. This distinction is essential when other parties are involved in the collision.
As the conversation continues to evolve, it is vital to stay informed and understand how marijuana use could affect your auto insurance coverage. Refer to your state legislation and current auto insurance carrier regarding medical marijuana use and your coverage.