If you live in or travel to a state such as Oregon or Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized, that doesn't mean that you can drive while under the influence of the drug. States with legalized marijuana are scrambling to enact laws to define how much THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) can be in your system before you are legally impaired to drive. Before marijuana was legalized, no such definition was necessary, since simply possessing marijuana was against the law.
What you need to know about driving and using legalized marijuana
1. It's up to the individual states to determine what level indicates impairment. In Colorado and Washington, the legal limit of THC is 5 ng/ml. The State of Oregon does not currently have a legal limit. They rely on field evaluations to determine if a driver is impaired. In field evaluations, police officers use such criteria as driving behavior, whether a person's eyes are red or the pupils are dilated, evidence of marijuana in the vehicle and/or an odor of marijuana in the car or on the person.
2. Tests for THC measure the metabolites associated with marijuana. These are the by-products produced as THC is being processed by the body. Since THC is fat-soluable, these metabolites can stay in the body for up to a month, making current impairment difficult to measure.
3. There is a wide variance in how individuals process marijuana in their bodies—another problem with setting a rigid standard for impairment.
4. There is no breathalyzer or other field test for marijuana use. In Colorado and Washington, the level of THC in the body is determined by a blood test. If a person can't have blood drawn (for example, if he or she is a hemophiliac), then a urine test is used. Urine testing for marijuana is even less reliable than blood testing.
5. While roadside saliva tests are used in Australia, these tests are not admissible in U.S. courts to prove impairment.
If you have been pulled over or charged with driving under the influence (either after drinking or using legalized marijuana), you need a good DUI attorney to help protect your rights. Although it may be tempting to save money by representing yourself in court, the consequences of a conviction can stay with you for years and affect your ability to get a job, obtain a loan, and even rent a car. To learn more, contact a law firm like Pollack & Ball LLC.