New Louisiana Statute: Vaping of Marijuana While Driving
With the increasing legalization of cannabis for both medical and recreational use in the United States, the number of cannabis users has been on the rise. Consequently, the number of individuals driving while under the influence of cannabis has also increased.
Acute cannabis intoxication impairs cognitive and psychomotor skills that are essential for safe driving; it also decreases a person’s driving ability. The growing number of cannabis-intoxicated drivers on the road raises concerns regarding potential public health consequences for traffic safety. Louisiana has implemented a solution to address the potential dangers of vaping cannabis drivers on the road.
What Is the Vaping of Marijuana?
The utilization of vaping by both adolescents and adults has surged over the last ten years. Inhalation of cannabis through vaping has become a popular method of consumption for recreational and therapeutic purposes. Vaping involves using convection and conduction heating methods to heat the cannabis to a lower temperature than combustion, which prevents the flower from burning and producing smoke.
The regulated vaping temperature ensures a smooth inhale and full flavor, which differs from the harsher hit produced by smoking and combustion, where a flame is directly applied to the cannabis flower. Many individuals choose to vape because they believe it is a safer alternative to smoking. However, this belief is not necessarily accurate, and the health risks associated with vaping are not necessarily lower than those associated with smoking.
The Dangers of Vaping Marijuana While Driving
The use of marijuana can significantly impair a driver's judgment, reaction time, and motor coordination. Marijuana is a commonly detected illicit drug in the blood of drivers involved in vehicle crashes, including those that result in fatalities. Individuals with THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in their bloodstream, especially at elevated levels, are at a significantly higher risk of being accountable for a collision than those who have not ingested drugs or alcohol.
Research suggests that the likelihood of causing an accident can increase by three to seven times in the presence of THC. Moreover, studies have found that the risk of being involved in a crash significantly increases after marijuana use.
The New Louisiana Statute on Vaping Marijuana While Driving
To address the detrimental effects of vaping marijuana during driving, Louisiana has introduced a new statute, La. R.S. 32:300.4.1, which makes it illegal to smoke or vape marijuana while driving a motor vehicle. According to this statute, it is illegal for the operator or any passenger of a motor vehicle to smoke or vape any form of marijuana while operating on a public highway or right-of-way. The definition of "public highway or right-of-way" includes the entire width between and directly adjacent to the boundary lines of highways or roads maintained by the public and accessible for public use. The vaping statute is different from the DWI statute, La. R.S. 14:98, in that the DWI statute only penalizes the driver or operator of the motor vehicle who is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The DWI statute does not penalize the passenger of a motor vehicle who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, if the passenger has an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, they can be charged with violation of the open container law.
In the context of this statute, the term "smoke" encompasses various activities, including the act of inhaling, exhaling, burning, carrying, or holding any activated aerosol or vapor, as well as the act of holding or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, weed, plant, or other substance that can be combusted in any way or form.
Vaping or smoking marijuana in a motor vehicle is a misdemeanor. According to the new law, violators of the prohibition against smoking or vaping marijuana in a motor vehicle while driving will be subjected to a fine of $100, and court expenses will also be evaluated in addition to the fine.
Cannabis impairment can lead to serious consequences, including accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. Hence, Louisiana's new law prohibiting smoking or vaping marijuana while driving is a significant step toward promoting safer roads. Individuals must understand the risks associated with marijuana-impaired driving and take responsible actions to protect themselves and others on the road. By raising awareness and implementing preventive measures to avert cannabis-impaired driving, this act can ensure the safety of all drivers.
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This information has been provided for informational purposes only, is not intended, and should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult your attorney regarding any specific situation under Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may affect your legal rights.