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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Know the Laws Before Driving Stoned

In a study published in the journal, Psychopharmacology, 30 percent of people under the influence of marijuana failed the standard field sobriety test. This is the same test that catches around 88 percent of drunk drivers.

But in many states, you don’t need to be inebriated from marijuana to actually fail such a test. Simply smoking weed a few days before could result in enough THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) to get into legal trouble on the road. Here’s what to know before you take that next puff.

What is Drugged Driving?

Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012 and continues to refine how they test for driving under its influence. Testing looks for the presence of metabolites, which can linger in your body for days or even weeks. But they can't test for inebriation while high. This could mean that someone who smoked marijuana days before could register for metabolites. Just how much is too much? To date under Colorado law, drivers with 5 nanograms per millimeter of THC can be charged as drunk drivers.

But for some with chronic medical conditions, keeping just enough marijuana in their system may keep nausea and debilitating symptoms at bay and keep them fully functioning. The amount in their system may be small and inconsequential to driving that day, but the metabolites build and can show up days later. In other words, they can legally fail a road sobriety test after smoking weed 24-hours previously. The other issue is no one knows how much marijuana is too much for any one person. The only real way to play it safe is to stay off the roads.

What are the Laws?

In Colorado, refusal to submit to a test by a law enforcement officer is admissible into evidence at a trial. Further, your license can be revoked for refusal of a test for one year for each refusal up to three years. A first offense can land you in the county jail for a minimum of two days up to 80 days, a fine of $200-500, 24-48 hours of public service and a probation period of up to two years. Second and third offenses increase all penalties.

In California, it's illegal to drive under the influence of any drug, but the state is required to prove the substance impaired the driver. Refusing to take a drug test can result in fines, imprisonment, license suspicion, and generally does not have the right to have an attorney present for the test.
In Oregon, motorists suspected of driving under the influence can consult with a lawyer before deciding whether to submit to a test unless the delay would defeat the purpose of the test. Like Colorado and California, offenses result in mandatory prison time, community service, fines and license suspension.

However, unlike in many states, sobriety checkpoints are illegal in Oregon and must have some cause of suspicion for it to be permissible. However, it’s important to know laws in any state could change or have grey area. Brush up on the driving laws in your state, read about drugged driving in your state, and never hit the road inebriated.

What are the Dangers?

Experts have noticed that in states with legalized medical marijuana, drunk-driving deaths have dropped. A paper published by the Journal of Law & Economics showed a 13 percent drop. Experts think that people are replacing marijuana with alcohol.

But that doesn't mean driving under the influence of marijuana is safe. Research from the British Medical Journal states that drivers who smoke marijuana hours before getting behind the wheel are nearly twice as likely as a sober motorist to be in a crash resulting in serious injury or death.