We’ve previously talked about the fact that even though marijuana use is now legal in California, it is still illegal to be high behind the wheel or to use marijuana while driving. You can even get a marijuana DUI even if you aren’t high, in part due to the fact that no reliable tests can yet evaluate how intoxicated someone is after using marijuana. Surprisingly though, that may always be a problem according to Escondido DUI lawyer Peter M. Liss.
The biggest problem with marijuana DUIs is that people respond to the drug in drastically different manners. Age, weight, body composition, genetics, the type of marijuana and how frequently a person uses the drug all play a part in how stoned a person will get after using the it. While the legal BAC might be somewhat arbitrary as one person may be falling on the floor with a blood alcohol level of .08 while another person with a higher tolerance could seem totally fine, the average driver will have some impairment while driving at this level. That’s why it makes sense for it to be illegal to drive when your BAC is above .08.
On the other hand, determining a fair blood concentration level for marijuana use could be practically impossible. One person could take a puff of marijuana and be unable to get off the couch, another could smoke all day and barely have any noticeable level of impairment. San Marcos DUI attorneys agree that no simple measurement could be used to fairly target drivers operating a vehicle while high.
Unlike alcohol which dissolves in water, THC dissolves in fat. This means the speed of elimination of THC from the body varies from person to person. In fact, a recent Colorado study showed THC showing up in significant amounts 30 days after last usage in some people, while some subjects showed no THC in their blood immediately after using marijuana. This has lead some scientists to try and develop a breath test for marijuana although very little THC shows up in breath and it dissipates quickly.
Seeing how much marijuana a person has used can be incredibly difficult. While blood tests can provide a fair evaluation of how much marijuana someone used, these need to be performed within 1.4 hours of when the person used a drug and police officers rarely can arrest a suspect and bring them in to get tested within 1.4 hours. Breath tests can determine if a person recently smoked marijuana before driving, but they cannot measure use if the person ingested the drug and they cannot determine whether a person is actually high. Meanwhile, the effects of marijuana can last beyond the time frame these two tests can account for. Urine tests on the other hand can pick up marijuana use from days or even weeks before the person was driving -making them an unfair way to test for the drug as well.
Unfortunately, as any DUI lawyer in Fallbrook will tell you, relying exclusively on officer testimony based on a driver’s behavior is also an unreliable way to determine if someone is high. Obviously, the best solution will be a combination of approaches -for example, combining officer testimony and an oral test. But no solution is foolproof and it’s sadly likely that people will be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana without suffering any effects from the drug first.
If you have been accused of driving while high, Rancho Bernardo DUI defense attorney can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Katherine Hitt