Marijuana, for recreation and medicinal use, has been a hot topic for decades. Currently, there are 18 states that allow medical marijuana use, with Colorado and Washington allowing for recreational use. A topic concerning marijuana use, as seen in a current Colorado house bill, focuses on the correlation between marijuana and DUIs and whether or not drivers can be issued a DUI if marijuana is detected. Impaired driving accidents occur daily due to driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. In many states, alcohol is the number one factor in impaired driving cases, but in states where marijuana is legal, marijuana use can also be considered as a driving impairment.
Marijuana and DUIs
In states, where marijuana is legal for recreational and medicinal purposes, DUIs can be issued to drivers, who have been impaired by any controlled substance, including marijuana. Marijuana is considered a driving impairment because like alcohol, it can affect a driver’s sense of perception, concentration or making the driver sleepy or relaxed, all symptoms that can impair one’s driving abilities.
In states such as Arizona, Utah, Iowa, Indiana, Delaware and Rhode Island, drivers are being issued DUIs for using marijuana, even when they are no longer “high”. Many argue the validity of such citations, especially when a driver is not obviously impaired due to alcohol or marijuana.
Unlike alcohol, marijuana can stay in the driver’s system long after the effects are gone. According to a National Institutes of Health study on the effect of marijuana compared with alcohol on driving, the effects of marijuana vary more between individuals than they do with alcohol. Marijuana users’ tolerance varies due to differences in smoking techniques and different absorptions of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. If you live in a state where marijuana use is legal and are pulled over during a traffic stop due to a suspicion of impaired driving, you may have blood drawn to see if THC is present in your system.
In states like Washington, a person is considered impaired if a blood test shows 5.0 nanograms of THC, which is considered the equivalent to the legal limit of alcohol, .08. However, marijuana users may be issued harsher fines than alcohol users, who have also received a DUI. In Arizona, an alcohol DUI will leave a driver without a license for 90 days and after 30 days, drivers can drive to work and school. A DUI, due to marijuana, on the other hand, will give the user the same fines and threat of jail time, but a license can be revoked for a year.
I use marijuana for medical purposes. Can I get a DUI?
Medical marijuana users, even with legal possession of the drug, are not excluded from receiving a DUI. Unfortunately, many users who have a medical marijuana prescription may not use it in fear of getting a DUI. Like other prescription drugs and their potential ability to impair driving, users should avoid driving while using medical marijuana.
Just like alcohol, use marijuana wisely
While the effects of alcohol and marijuana are different for each person, when used separately, it is important to use caution before getting behind the wheel. If you use marijuana, don’t use in excess or to the amount that makes you legally impaired. Remember that THC lingers in your system longer than alcohol. Use legal and recreational drugs wisely. Avoid a potential DUI, don’t drive!