Crime - Sacto 911

Cyclist dies after collision with driver who was high on marijuana, police say

Driving high? Police demonstrate swab test to detect impairment

Police demonstrate the Alere DDS2, a saliva swab test some authorities are using to determine marijuana impairment, in May at the Capitol in Sacramento.
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Police demonstrate the Alere DDS2, a saliva swab test some authorities are using to determine marijuana impairment, in May at the Capitol in Sacramento.

A bicyclist has died after colliding with a vehicle driven by a man under the influence of marijuana, according to the Sacramento Police Department.

The cyclist, Amar Askhra, 41, struck the vehicle on Truxel Road near the South Natomas Community Center at noon on Saturday. The driver had the right of way, police spokeswoman Linda Matthew said.

Askhra suffered serious injuries and was taken to a local hospital, Matthew said. He died there three days later, according to the Sacramento County Coroner's Office.

The driver stayed on the scene after the accident and was subsequently taken into custody. He was booked with a misdemeanor for driving under the influence of marijuana, Matthew said.

However, the department's Major Collision Investigation Unit is still consulting witnesses and examining evidence. It is unclear whether the driver's impairment was a factor in or a cause of the collision, Matthew said.

Marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational use in California. Unlike driving under the influence of alcohol, which is illegal if the blood alcohol content of the driver is equal to or greater than .08 percent, there's no legal limit to the amount of marijuana in one's system. Any blood THC concentration can qualify a driver for a DUI if authorities determine the driver was "no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person," according to the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, scientists have yet to come to a consensus on whether marijuana use statistically impacts driving ability.

Evidence from a 2013 metadata study published in Clinical Chemistry suggests that " recent smoking and/or blood THC 2-5 mL are associated with substantial driving impairment."

However, NIDA reports that a 2015 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found "no significant increased crash risk attributable to cannabis after controlling for drivers’ age, gender, race, and presence of alcohol."

State law dictates that a marijuana DUI resulting in a felonious injury can result in between six and 16 years in prison.

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