I’ve heard people say that they drive better stoned. I’ve heard people say that DUI laws don’t apply to marijuana.
Both of those statements are not true.
It seems to be an inevitable reality that the state of California will legalize marijuana. Recent recreational legalizations in Washington and Colorado seem to be successful. However, even if legalization should occur, driving under the influence of marijuana will still be illegal.
Currently in California, medical marijuana lives in a grey area, between acceptance and condemnation. Just because you’re legally allowed to consume marijuana, however, does not mean you’re allowed to drive under its influence.
California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e) is explicit: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” The analysis for prosecution will be very similar to its alcohol related counterpart, California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a): “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.”
For both of these sections, the two typical ways that you would be caught are via a routine traffic stop or by an officer suspecting you were driving impaired. During a routine traffic stop, an officer might suspect you were driving under the influence of marijuana if you appear drowsy, have bloodshot eyes, detects the odor of marijuana, etc. Once the officer suspects that, she or he will likely ask you a series of questions regarding any use. If you admit to have recently used any marijuana, you are exposing yourself to arrest on the basis of California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e). Any amount of marijuana use could be used to arrest you.
Convicting you is a different story, however. The amount of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) which makes someone “under the influence” is not established. Most people know that they cannot drive with more than 0.08% Blood Alcohol Level. Currently, there is not a comparable amount of THC allowed in the bloodstream. In real life, this is important when you’re given an option of what test to take. When you’re pulled over, and there is a suspicion that you’re driving under the influence, you will be given an option of three tests. (1) breathalyzer, (2) urine Test, (3) blood test. If the officer suspects that you are driving under the influence of marijuana, the Breathalyzer test won’t be given, or if it is, you’ll blow a 0.00. That leaves you to choose a urine test or a blood test.
There are certain factors that influence what test you should choose. THC is detectable for much longer periods in urine than in blood. This means if you’re a chronic smoker, or have smoked recently, you should choose the urine test. While this might seem counter intuitive, since THC is detectable for a longer time in urine, it is actually weaker evidence that you were driving under the influence at the time of the arrest. If you haven’t smoked recently, or are not a chronic smoker, you should choose the blood test. That is because THC is only detectable in blood for a couple hours. You’re more likely to pass that test.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is a complicated area of law. There are intricacies that need to be explored to fully evaluate the case. The above is not to be considered legal advice, only general information. If you have a driving under the influence of marijuana issue that you need help with, you should contact a DUI attorney.