Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

Marijuana and driving

Now that marijuana use is legal in California, law enforcement is struggling with ways to prove that marijuana is involved in cases of driving under the influence. The lack of appropriate road-side tests and the fact that evidence of marijuana sticks around for weeks are just some of the issues.

According to CBS News, there is no scientific test that proves immediate impairment from the use of marijuana. A blood test can determine levels of this drug in the system, but it typically takes more than a couple of hours before the test can be conducted. By then, blood levels have usually fallen below the legal limit. Also, the effects of marijuana vary greatly from one individual to another. Someone who is a frequent user can handle higher amounts compared to someone who is not used to it, and the levels of frequent users persist longer than they do for occasional users. 

Some tests, such as behavioral, tongue color and pupil dilation, can be subjective or not specific enough. Between these reasons and the fact that crash rates under the influence of marijuana are relatively low comparatively, it has been suggested that suspicion of marijuana use should result in just a traffic violation. 

Until the laws change or new tests are discovered, in the event someone is found guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana in California, the penalties are the same as for an alcohol DUI. According to California State University, a first offense can result in license suspension of at least six months, fines ranging from $390 to $1,000 and jail time ranging from 48 hours to six months. Other penalties may include alcohol classes, an interlock device and vehicle impound.  

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