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Finding a Way to Test Drugged Driving

Marijuana is now legal for recreational consumption in four states and Washington DC. It is also decriminalized in 16 other states, many of whom will be voting on legalizing cannabis for recreational use. Many other state allow medicinal marijuana. As a result, lawmakers are scrambling to find ways to deal with driving under the influence of this and other drugs. As lawmakers ease the restrictions on the possession and consumption of marijuana police are concerned about keeping their roadways safe and free from impaired drivers.

DUI Laws in Colorado

The state of Colorado, who completely legalized marijuana in 2012, has strict laws against driving while under the influence of marijuana. In Colorado, cannabis is treated the same as alcohol, and users should think twice before driving while high. The Colorado Department of Transportation has spent a lot of time and money into a successful anti-drugged driving campaign.

drugs and driving

New York Court Dismissed a DWI case

A court case in Suffolk County, New York has recently surprised the rest of the country by dismissing a DWI case where the defendant admitted to smoking cannabis before driving. There are laws in New York State that make it illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. In the People v. Malone, Mrs. Stephanie Malone was pulled over on a routine traffic stop. After talking to Mrs. Malone, the arresting officer began to suspect that she was currently intoxicated. Despite the fact that Mrs. Malone had admitted to consuming marijuana shortly before driving, she escaped conviction because the officer did not make an official note of her impairment. Since Mrs. Malone refused to submit to a blood test, the arresting officer did not present enough evidence to secure a conviction.

Even though her admission is acceptable evidence in New York, Mrs. Malone’s statement would have needed further corroboration to be accepted. Essentially, her own admission of guilt was not enough to reach a conviction. Furthermore, the officer could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she had consumed marijuana before driving and she was actually impaired by marijuana. Because of this, Mrs. Malone received a lucky break.

While Mrs. Malone was lucky enough to avoid a conviction, DWI defense attorneys all have stressed the dangers of driving while high. Because cannabis can remain in your bloodstream for weeks, it has historically been difficult to measure the effect of any residual cannabis. However, police and prosecutors across the country are working on new methods to measure just how impaired someone really is. While some states have resorted to field sobriety tests similar to the ones used before the breathalyzer was invented, Washington and Montana have set a limit of five nanograms of THC in the bloodstream. Similar to the legal limit of 0.08 BAC, drivers with more than five nanograms present in their blood will be booked for drugged driving.

Delaware and Wisconsin’s take on THC

Delaware and Wisconsin, however, have taken a tough stance against driving while high on marijuana. Anyone caught driving a vehicle with any THC in their bloodstream will immediately be arrested for drugged driving. Many people argue that this is an unfair policy that will punish people who might not actually be impaired.

Legislators are still working on a way to accurately test marijuana impairment. Until then, smoker beware! In most states driving with THC in your system can lead to your arrest.

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