Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
One unintended consequence of marijuana legalization is the difficulty of establishing reliable roadside testing for driving under the influence. Colorado and California are spearheading the initiative to come up with an appropriate limit.
Calculating the maximum limit of alcohol has proven to be easier than figuring out the limitation for weed. Illegal intoxication behind the wheel is calculated by blood alcohol content (BAC). The formula is simple: the higher the level of alcohol in your bloodstream, the more impaired you are.
However, with THC, there are many variables that law enforcement must consider to determine impairment, which includes the following:
- Does the driver regularly smoke marijuana?
- How they consume their cannabis?
- The ratio of THC in the product?
- Whether they’ve used marijuana in conjunction with other medications and substances?
A research paper, titled “Cannabinoid Markers in Biological Fluids and Tissues: Revealing Intake”, pointed these out as the main hurdles when trying to create a system similar to BAC. It also noted that THC will not show up in most tests after three hours, but the effects can last up to six hours.
To address these gaps, California approved a blanket legislation that prohibits a driver from smoking marijuana or consuming edibles while they are behind the wheel.
Drivers are also required to store their marijuana in sealed containers. And the seals need to be intact at the time of the inspection. If the container is open, it should be stored in the vehicle’s trunk. This type of rule is not new considering that the state only copied its own regulations governing alcohol.
Most arrests concerning marijuana were just an offshoot of a simple traffic violation. In most cases, law enforcement could not distinguish whether the motorists were simply snacking on a brownie or a cannabis-infused edible.
Police are trained to spot drivers who are possibly impaired by marijuana, alcohol, or other opioids. Those who are arrested for ingesting or smoking marijuana while driving are subject to a fine of $70 or more.
There is no supported evidence between car wrecks and marijuana use. Research has shown that driving while high, does negatively impair defensive driving, the ability to focus and the time it takes a driver to react to dangerous situations. When weed is mixed with alcohol, the number of fatal car crashes increase.
Colorado has created special units within the Colorado State Patrols that are trained to spot motorists who are possibly impaired. Drivers who are suspected of being under the influence will be asked to pull over and take a blood test.
Consent to give the blood test for THC presence is supposedly voluntary. Refusal to undergo a “voluntary” drug test can result in revocation of your driver’s license. Therefore, rejecting a suggested blood test from an officer is not recommended. State patrol agencies are also testing oral fluid gadgets that will do away with blood tests, while speeding up the process.
Police officers in California have voiced increased concern about motorist who drive high, especially since Prop 64 has been enacted. Addressing this issue has proven to be challenging to law enforcement. Currently, California has no guidelines to determine who is too high to drive under state law.
Thousands of patrolmen and officers have been trained under the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement Program. These experts are trained to detect physical evidence of drivers who may be operating their vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The physical test to determine marijuana impairment is similar to the test conducted for alcohol and other drugs. The driver will be asked to toe a straight line, touch their nose with their fingers, and stand or hop on one foot. A light will also be shined on their pupils and their pulse rates recorded at three different points.
As the legalization of weed spreads nationwide, more laws will be made regarding the operation of a vehicle while high on marijuana. States across the nation are still in the process of creating laws that help drivers remain safe. When driving, it’s better to be free of the influence of alcohol, drugs, prescription medication and a lack of sleep. One bad decision could cost you or someone else their life. Have a designated driver take you where you need to go or relax and spend the day at home while enjoying your weed. It’s not worth the risk no matter how small you may believe it to be.