“Drive high, get a DUI.” As a California resident, you have probably spotted this message on the state’s freeway signs at some point since the campaign was launched this past December. While it has always been against state law to drive under the influence of any drug, the recent deregulation of recreational marijuana has prompted law enforcement to offer a reminder to California drivers.
Law enforcement officials are aware that the recent change in state law regarding recreational marijuana use will likely cause a spike in use. Those that may have been wary of laws against marijuana possession in the past can now make a personal choice as to whether or not they consume the product.
Unfortunately, the likelihood that more people will be smoking marijuana will also lead more people to climb behind the wheel of their car while under the influence of the drug. This possibility is enforced by surveys of users, such as one conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation in 2016. That survey concluded that more than half of cannabis users believe driving under the influence of the drug is safe.
Due to the lack of regulated marijuana detection devices and methods, law enforcement personnel are having difficulties in determining who is actually committing DUI offenses. Unlike alcohol, marijuana can remain in a person’s blood for more than 30 days and roadside sobriety tests are subjective at best. The results of these tests are still easily defended by DUI lawyers.
At the moment, officials are using blood tests to determine the amount of THC present in the systems of DUI suspects. You will likely be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana if your blood contains more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. However, authorities have also recently announced plans to test mouth swab kits and marijuana breathalyzers.
The final and yet another subjective, mode of DUI detection is the simple presence of marijuana in a vehicle. Anything from a 3-inch joint to a 6-foot bong can get you into hot water, whether you have been smoking from them or not. The implementation of this rule seems to be at the discretion of police officers as there is no on-site way of knowing if the driver is, in fact, under the influence.
California and Oregon have both regulated the packaging for most of the products available in stores. It is easy enough to prove you haven’t opened a sealed and labeled package, especially when it was supplied by a manufacturer for retail sale. Then again, the locking storage bags that cannabis flowers are sold in are not actually sealed, just difficult to open, so even those may not protect you from prosecution.
In conclusion, don’t let yourself be betrayed by your personal opinion regarding marijuana and one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. If you are involved in a collision, even if you aren’t at fault, law enforcement will be looking for signs that you were driving under the influence of marijuana and that can quickly become a costly mistake.