Does Marijuana Affect Driving Ability?

Using Marijuana While DrivingCalifornia was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana and in 2016, Proposition 64 removed many of the remaining legal restrictions on marijuana use and possession. While it may be legal to use or possess marijuana, driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) VC and is considered a DUI offense similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. Unlike drunk driving, there are not extensive studies regarding a driver’s ability to drive while under the influence of marijuana. This is an emerging area of the law that legislators are watching closely, especially now that marijuana has gained legal status in California.

Studies Regarding Marijuana Use and Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has conducted numerous studies about the effects of alcohol on a person’s ability to drive a vehicle. Because marijuana is still considered an illegal substance by the Federal government, there have not been the same kind of studies performed in regards to marijuana use and driving. However as more states legalize or decriminalize marijuana, there is more evidence regarding marijuana’s effect on a person’s driving ability.

National Institute on Drug Abuse Study

Recently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted a study regarding marijuana and driving performance. The study involved 18 occasional marijuana smokers who engaged in tests in a driving simulator. The study looked at the test subject’s performance while under the influence of alcohol and while under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana users did show an increase in weaving and those who had THC blood concentrations of 13.1 ug/L had similar weaving behavior as drivers with a BAC of 0.08 percent.

Marijuana and DUI

Unlike DUI offenses involving alcohol where there is a 0.08 percent legal limit, there is no marijuana threshold and drivers can be charged with DUI if they have any amount of marijuana in their system. A driver who is suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana would be required to take a blood test, as there is no breath test currently that can test for the presence or amount of marijuana in a person’s system.

There may be a number of defenses available to someone who has been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. If the driver was driving safely and if there is a low THC concentration in the driver’s blood sample, the defense may be able to argue that the driver was not, in fact, under the influence of marijuana at the time of driving. Marijuana can stay in a person’s system for several days and the defense may be able to show that the intoxicating effect of marijuana had worn off by the time the defendant was driving. In these cases, the prosecution may be willing to dismiss the DUI charge or offer a reduced DUI charge, such as wet reckless, reckless driving or exhibition of speed.

Marijuana and the Driver’s License Suspension

Unlike DUI offenses involving alcohol, the DMV will not issue an administrative suspension for drivers who are under the influence of marijuana or other drugs. The automatic suspension issued at the time of the arrest will often be set aside when the driver’s blood tests come back positive for marijuana but show that the driver did not have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.

However, the driver may still have his or her driving privileges suspended if they are convicted in court of any DUI offense under California Vehicle Code Section 23152 VC.

If you have been arrested for a DUI offense involving marijuana, it is crucial that speak with an experienced DUI attorney immediately. Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who fights hard on behalf of his clients charged with DUI marijuana offenses.

For more information about DUI marijuana charges, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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