- How High is TOO High?
- We’ve been taught through countless public service announcements that we shouldn’t drink and drive. Still, there are those who refuse to listen and often end up with a driving under the influence (DUI) charge or even worse, getting in an accident with someone else. In these cases, it doesn’t matter who would be at fault if both parties were sober. In a car accident, the individual under the influence is perceived to be at blame in most cases.
This brings up an interesting point about marijuana. Cannabis metabolites can remain in your system for up to three months after you’ve stopped smoking. That means you might have a dirty drug test, even if you haven’t smoked any marijuana in recent months. While some recommend testing THC blood levels in order to determine impairment, the truth is that elevated THC levels in marijuana patients may appear higher than the average person who smokes a bowl on their own. The difference is the level of tolerance to the substance, so they may be perfectly fine on the road, where as someone else might have a single hit and not be safe on the road.
This hasn’t stopped some states from passing measures to help to curb the use of marijuana and driving. Colorado for example has a law in place that anything over five nanograms of THC in the blood for every milliliter of blood is considered driving while stoned. Other states have put a zero tolerance level on having any levels of THC in the blood and driving. Those states with the zero tolerance for marijuana combine them under their zero tolerance for all controlled substances that would result in impaired driving.
Despite the push and the claims that these laws have not resulted in a reduction of accidents, or even fatalities in results. A University of Colorado study has even gone so far as to make the claim that the laws only serve to add a way for law enforcement to further prosecute those who are engaging in a behavior that is deemed legally acceptable otherwise. The study known as the Per Se Drugged Driving Laws and Traffic Fatalities study by Daniel I Rees and D. Mark Anderson was published in November 2012, took a look at the cannabis driving laws and the actual impact they are having. Washington State in turn has reported that since they started to test for marijuana, there is a spike in the number of drivers who test positive for the substance. Defenders of the substance claim that before they were testing for the drug, the number of people on the road might have still been the same.
Despite these studies and suggestions, the White House continues to take a hard stance on the use of marijuana among drivers. The Obama Administration has strongly recommended that all states pass a zero tolerance policy for drugged driving.
This has caused some people to question if medical marijuana patients should have some leeway in the process. After all, there are eighteen states that allow these individuals to consume marijuana within reasonable amounts. So technically, any driving that these individuals do, would be under the laws that are enforced in the state. Opponents state that similar to other prescription medications, those who are under the influence of marijuana pose the same risk as an individual who has taken pain medication, or other drugs that have impaired their ability to drive. Advocates for these patients have brought up the fact that marijuana metabolites remain the blood stream long after a person has used their prescription, thus they wouldn’t technically be under the influence of a substance if they were tested.
Like alcohol, the laws in each state varies as the punishment a person who is listed a legally intoxicated may face. This ranges from jail time to fines and other legal penalties a person might face.
Take a moment to review each of the states. Some have a zero tolerance driving under the influence of drugs or a per se law in place for certain drugs. Others have possession and use laws, or impaired driving laws that are specific to marijuana. In areas where it is illegal across the board, it is assumed that a DUID charge would pertain to the discovered use by law enforcement.