Marijuana’s rapid legalization across the country has led to a whole host of legal questions attorneys are scrambling to answer. For example, is driving under the influence of marijuana a crime? Technically yes. Practically, it depends. The difficulty of charging someone with a marijuana DUI is proving the charges in court.
The question is easier to answer in medical-only states like Utah. But in states where recreational use is allowed, things are more difficult. Unless law enforcement has a definitive way to test impairment and link it to cannabis, getting a conviction can be challenging.
- Impairment Is Always Illegal
By the letter of the law, driving while impaired by any substance is illegal. It doesn’t matter whether a person is impaired by a prescription medication, alcohol, or household solvents. Impairment is impairment from a legal perspective. But again, the difficulty with cannabis is proving impairment in court.
A person impaired by alcohol shows evident signs of such impairment. Furthermore, a roadside sobriety test combined with the results of a blood test pretty much confirm a police officer’s suspicion. It is hard to argue against DUI when both tests say otherwise.
Things are not so easy with cannabis. A person can be impaired and still manage to pass a roadside sobriety test. And as for drug tests, they don’t tell law enforcement much about a person’s ability to drive. That is because cannabis metabolites can remain in a person’s system for weeks at a time. Just because a person tests positive for cannabis does not mean they were impaired at the time.
- It’s Still Not Safe
With that in mind, cannabis users should not be cavalier about driving immediately after using cannabis. Just becau
se impairment is hard to prove in court does not mean it is okay to drive impaired. An impaired driver presents a danger to everyone else on the roads regardless of the substance being used.
The simple truth is that driving impaired is not safe under any circumstances. Whether you are a medical cannabis user with a legal prescription purchased from Park City Utah’s Deseret Wellness or a recreational user who regularly buys from a dispensary in Colorado, you are risking harm to yourself and others by driving while under the influence.
- Penalties Are Stiff
If you are caught driving while impaired, and prosecutors are able to prove it in court, you could face stiff penalties. First-timers in Utah are looking at a minimum $1,000 fine and potential jail time. Get caught in California and you are looking at a hefty fine plus mandatory DUI school and a potential suspension of your license. A second offense in the Golden in State could land you in jail and lead to a two-year license suspension.
Other states have similar penalties in place. Regardless of a state’s attitude toward recreational marijuana, attitudes toward DUI are pretty consistent across the country. It is simply not acceptable to get behind the wheel if you are impaired by any substance. The point could not be made any more clearly.
- Medical Cards Are Not Legal Exemptions
Medical-only states are quick to remind patients that possessing a medical cannabis card does not give one an exemption from DUI laws. A valid card only gives you legal authority to possess and use medical cannabis in that state. It is not a license to drive impaired.
Is driving under the influence of marijuana a crime? Technically, yes. Sometimes law enforcement has trouble proving it in court. But when cases are successfully prosecuted, severe penalties can be assessed. Do not take the risk. If you use, don’t drive until you’re sober again.