Will Washington State drugged driving fatalities trigger fed intervention?

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by NW Spotlight

Data released recently from the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission showed that “Fatal crashes involving marijuana doubled in Washington after legalization.”

The Oregonian reported “The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for active THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, had held fairly steady from 2010 to 2013 — between 32 and 38 per year. That number jumped to 75 in 2014, and about half were above the state’s legal limit for marijuana-impaired driving,” adding “many of those drivers also tested positive for alcohol or other drugs.”

Responding to the data, Washington Traffic Safety Commission member Shelly Baldwin said “That’s alarming – especially considering that the number of alcohol-related fatal crashes has been dropping.”

That means that Washington State is violating the “Cole memo” priority of preventing drugged driving:

“Preventing drugged driving and exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use.”

Although marijuana use remains a federal crime, “The current administration in Washington, D.C., has determined that they will not make enforcing existing federal drug laws a priority in the case of marijuana. In August 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice sent out the ‘Cole memo’ as guidance on how it would prioritize enforcement of federal marijuana drug laws. States not in compliance with the ‘Cole memo’ are more likely to be subject to federal enforcement.”

The “Cole memo” states “If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust to protect against the harms set forth above, the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself in addition to continuing to bring individual enforcement actions, including criminal prosecutions, focused on those harms.”

Based on the “Cole memo,” not only are individual marijuana users at risk of “enforcement actions” in Washington, but the state’s marijuana legalization “regulatory structure” is also at risk from the feds.