Can I Get a DUI Due to Marijuana?
Marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states. While California, Colorado, and Washington led the way, marijuana is now legal for recreational and medical use for adults in 11 states. Rules tend to be somewhat similar to those for alcohol use. Users must be 21 to purchase marijuana for recreational use, and medical marijuana is still strictly regulated and available only for those with a prescription card.
The new rules around the legality of marijuana have led to some confusion, but it’s best to look at driving under the influence of marijuana the same way we view alcohol-based driving offenses. In other words, while it’s absolutely legal (in some states) to use marijuana, it’s not legal to drive while high. This has not stopped many drivers, however. NHTSA recently reported that marijuana-related driving incidents are up, as are incidents where drivers are using marijuana with alcohol or other substances.
Marijuana can cause drowsiness, slowed response time, and other potential issues that impact safe driving. You can indeed get a DUI for driving under the influence of marijuana, and the offense carries similar penalties including a monetary fine and potential license suspension.
What Happens During a Marijuana DUI Test?
Most drivers are familiar with the concept of a breathalyzer for alcohol-based driving offenses, but marijuana cannot be detected this way. Thus, police officers and other officials must either conduct a field sobriety test or get a blood test to determine if someone is under the influence of marijuana.
There are two types of marijuana DUIs:
Per se: For a per se marijuana DUI, it must be proven that the driver had marijuana in their system. This requires a blood test. It’s important to note that if you have THC in your system, you can be convicted even if your driving did not seem impaired, and you passed the field sobriety test.
Impairment: This is simpler to determine. Drivers can be arrested for this type of DUI if they show visible signs of impairment. These signs vary depending on your state, but typically the officers are looking for signs of impairment like being off balance, slurring, strange behavior, and of course, erratic driving.
In many cases, a blood test or other drug test may be administered to verify presence of THC or cannabis, but not all court systems require it. Some drivers are arrested simply for failing the field sobriety tests, and of course if any driving offense was committed, they may be penalized for that.
Penalties for marijuana DUIs are similar to those for alcohol-based offenses, but laws do vary by state.
How Can I Avoid a Marijuana DUI?
While ignition interlock devices can definitely help prevent alcohol-related driving offenses, there’s not a similar device that tests for marijuana intoxication. Thus, avoiding a marijuana-related driving offense is pretty simple:
- Don’t smoke, vape, or ingest marijuana and drive — the only way to be absolutely certain you’re not driving while impaired is to not drive after using marijuana.
- Choose a sober driver — if you get more high than planned, have a sober driver ready or call a sober ride in your area.
The odds of creating unsafe driving situations are likely when under the influence of marijuana. Even though the effects may feel different or not as apparent, consider yourself under the influence the same way you would after a night of drinking.