While some tout the benefits of marijuana on disease, there are cases regarding adverse effects of marijuana, sometimes resulting in deaths from marijuana. Marijuana laws are changing across the United States. More states are decriminalizing and legalizing the use of marijuana. Other states allow for the medical use of marijuana. Individuals who travel across the country with marijuana that may be legal in one state could face surprising drug charges in another.

Consider contacting a criminal defense attorney if you’re facing federal or state charges for possessing marijuana. The Law Offices of Mariya Melkonyan can also help if you’ve been charged with a DUI because of marijuana found in your system in California. We will protect your rights and work on your behalf to mitigate sentencing related to deaths caused by marijuana.

The possession and personal use of marijuana are legal in 18 states and Washington, DC, as of June 2021. However, the use, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Roughly 46% of Americans live in areas with legalized recreational marijuana use, and 76% live in areas where medical marijuana is legalized.

Areas that allow recreational marijuana use include:

Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington, DC

Some states in the US have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, while others have only decriminalized the use of marijuana recreationally. Decriminalizing means violators will face fines but not be arrested or serve any jail time.

Currently, 13 states in the US have only decriminalized marijuana use. These states include:

Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island

California legalized the recreational use of marijuana through Prop. 64 in 2016. Adults 21 years or older in California can possess, use, or give away up to one ounce of marijuana. They are also permitted to cultivate up to six plants for personal use at their residence. California also allows its citizens to use medical marijuana legally.

Residents in states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana can still get in legal trouble if they possess marijuana outside their state. Marijuana is considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government. Federal laws prohibit you from traveling across state lines or through federal jurisdictions with a Schedule I substance.

It is a federal crime to bring marijuana on any flight, even if you’re traveling within a state where recreational use is legal. You may also face charges if you’re traveling by car from a state with legalization to a state without legalization. Know the laws of the state you’re traveling to and be aware of the potential legal problems you could face.

Can You Die from Using Marijuana?

While marijuana does have negative health consequences, the use of marijuana or cannabis alone is unlikely to kill you. Laboratory tests have shown people can tolerate dosages much larger than what they need to get high. Deaths from marijuana are more likely to result from the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

The psychoactive effects of marijuana can impair your judgment or make you delusional. You may experience unstable behavior or take more risks than usual. This may cause you to make choices you wouldn’t when sober, resulting in injury or death.

Deaths from marijuana can occur due to driving under the influence and traumas related to risky behavior. These are more likely outcomes than death due to intoxication or overdosing on the substance itself.

How Does Marijuana Cause Death?

The most common way marijuana causes deaths is by traffic accidents and injuries from falls. 18% of fatally injured drivers in 2016 tested positive for cannabinoid use, double the amount from a decade earlier. THC from marijuana enters the bloodstream and brain, impairing your coordination and judgment. This affects your ability to drive safely and also causes more injuries and deaths from falls.

Deaths from marijuana can also from dehydration due to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) has also occurred. This syndrome occurs in some people when they use marijuana, and it causes nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. CHS can result in dehydration, acute kidney failure, and even death.

How Widespread is the Problem?

It’s harder to track marijuana-related deaths because the substance itself is not the cause of death. Marijuana use may contribute to deaths from car accidents and other injuries or illnesses but is not listed as a person’s cause of death. That makes it difficult for researchers to find and spot trends. Researchers do know that the percentage of fatal accidents involving marijuana is on the rise.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana is less addictive than other substances like alcohol, cocaine, or opioids. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t become addicted to marijuana—about 9% of people who try marijuana become addicted to the substance. Dependence on marijuana is usually less severe than with other substance abuse disorders but still requires treatment.

Patients seeking treatment for marijuana addiction typically have used the substance for many years and have tried to quit on their own numerous times. They continue to use marijuana despite its negative effect on their personal relationships, health, and financial standings.

Marijuana Overdoses

No known marijuana overdoses have been reported. The body can tolerate very high dosages without it causing toxicity and death. Deaths from marijuana are caused by other factors like car accidents and trauma due to the person’s intoxication rather than overdoses.

In comparison, over 70,000 Americans died from drug-involved overdoses in 2019 alone. Overdoses were highest among opioid and methamphetamine users.

Motor Vehicle Deaths From Marijuana

Marijuana is the most common substance involved in vehicular deaths after alcohol. Marijuana significantly impairs a driver’s coordination, judgment, and reaction time. Studies have found that any marijuana use before driving raises the risk of being involved in an accident. Cannabinoid use in fatal car accidents has more than doubled since 2007.

In California, there is no legal limit of marijuana for driving; it is simply not tolerated. This means if small amounts are detected in your blood or urine after a traffic stop or arrest, you can be charged with the crime of driving under the influence.

Helpful Resources

Learn more about marijuana and conditions it helps treat through research funded by the National Institutes of Health. If you are struggling with the use of marijuana and believe you may be endangering others due to your frequent use of the drug, consider seeking help. You can find a rehabilitation program near you through American Addiction Centers.

How the Law Offices of Mariya Melkonyan Can Help

You can still find yourself in legal trouble even though the use of medical and recreational marijuana has been legalized in California. Federal laws prohibit you from flying with marijuana, and you can get in trouble traveling to another state where marijuana laws may differ.

You can also be charged with driving under the influence in California if you’re found with any amount of marijuana in your system. First-time offenders can face fines up to $10,000. If you injure or kill someone while driving under the influence, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to represent you.

Mariya Melkonyan is a former Deputy District Attorney with the experience and strategy needed to help you win your case. Contact the Law Offices of Mariya Melkonyan today for a free consultation.

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