Despite the decriminalization of marijuana in various states, driving under the influence of marijuana can still be a crime.
The crime is labeled, “Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (DWAI)”. While low in number compared to drunk driving, some studies having found that driving under the influence of marijuana make a person twice as likely to have an accident. Other factors may also come into play such as if you have children in the car while impaired, if you hit another vehicle, if you are a repeat offender, etc.
The penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana can be stiff, depending on the state you are in, with hefty fines, drivers license suspension/revocation, and in certain cases, jail time. Repeat convictions will also have more severe penalties. DWI charges are not always from drinking alcohol and driving. Consuming street drugs, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and marijuana, can also lead to DWI charges if they impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle. It is important to know that even if a driver has a prescription for a particular drug, driving while impaired by that drug may still result in DWI charges.
The most reliable method of detecting THC in the blood is through a blood test, and while it may be reliable, the method is slow and results may take weeks to come back, and officers may not even have the tools necessary to administer a blood test. There is also skepticism that this may not determine accurately a person’s level of impairment. It is not as easy to determine marijuana impairment as it is to determine alcohol impairment today, though states are starting to establish these rules and setting limits in place, similar to those in place for alcohol. For instance, in states where marijuana is recreational, like Colorado and Washington, the legal limit for marijuana in the bloodstream is 5 nanograms per mL of blood, though this rule is still questionable as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that “it is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects”. It may be up to a jury to decide the fate of your charges. It’s recommended that you speak to a good DWAI lawyer to discuss your best options.
Driving while being impaired by marijuana may not be as statistically dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, but the safest practice is to not drive under the influence of any mind-altering substances. The difference in choice could result in a difficult consequence in yours or someone else’s life.