Medical marijuana is on the tipping point of approval in the U.S., now that 25 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of the drug. However, driving regulations are still very restrictive when it comes to marijuana use—which presents some serious problems for those using medical marijuana. It's important to understand the potential problem you face if you use medical marijuana and what you can do if you're given a DUI for "driving high."
The marijuana stays in your system long after the high is gone.
Your body breaks down alcohol molecules and flushes them from your system within hours. THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana, can stay in your system for days if you're a regular user. It can be very difficult to figure out when your body may have flushed out enough of the THC to put you below whatever limit is considered allowable in your state.
Those limits can be fairly restrictive, too. For example, Colorado considers anyone with THC of 5 nanograms per milliliter to be driving while impaired due to THC. A regular user of medical marijuana may never actually dip below those levels, even though he or she is only actually affected by the high from the drug for a short period of time. Someone who medicates with the drug first thing in the morning could still legally be impaired that evening even though the physical effects of the drug are long gone.
You need to know how to respond if you're pulled over for a DUI.
People who aren't really impaired get charged with DUIs all the time. The officer has probable cause to pull you over if you do anything that can reasonably be considered "erratic" as you're driving. That means sliding through a stop sign because you were rushed, running a light that was turning red, or taking a turn too wide.
Once you are pulled over, your choices can really affect your ability to avoid a DUI conviction for marijuana use. You need to understand several things and commit them to memory:
- You do not have to tell the officer you were using medical marijuana. Invoke you right to remain silent until you speak to an attorney.
- You probably do not have to submit to the so-called roadside tests, where the officer tests your ability to walk a straight line, count backward, and so on, in order to assess your level of impairment. Check with your state laws to be sure.
- Refusing to take a urine test will almost certainly result in the loss of your license under "implied consent laws," which makes agreeing to such tests a condition of having a driver's license.
While some people consider the loss of a license to be preferable to a DUI conviction, it's a calculated risk—the officer might just call up a friendly judge and get a warrant for a blood test instead. Urine tests aren't as sensitive as blood tests and can't tell how recently the THC was introduced to your system, so they can be challenged in court for their validity. Juries are also showing that they understand the problems inherent to the testing by refusing to convict, even when the testing shows that a driver is over the legal nannogram limit.
While there's no guarantee, as long as you don't admit to using the marijuana recently and don't give the prosecution evidence to use against you by taking (and failing) the roadside tests, you stand a good chance of being able to defeat a marijuana-related DUI charge. Make sure that if you use medical marijuana you have the number of a DUI attorney tucked into your wallet whenever you're on the road.
For a DUI attorney, contact a law firm such as the Law Offices of Daniel Aaronson.