Drugged driving as a potential issue with legalization of medical marijuana

Last time, we began speaking about current proposals for a statewide medical marijuana program, and the potential legal implications of medical marijuana use. One of the possible implications, as we mentioned, is that medical marijuana may put its users at greater risk of being targeted for drugged driving.

The reasons for this increased risk have to do with the way the human body processes THC, the active ingredient found in marijuana, and our lack of ability to accurately measure THC impairment. While the science behind measuring a driver’s level of alcohol intoxication is fairly well developed (though certainly not perfect), our understanding of how to accurately measure marijuana impairment is not very developed. 

The issue of measuring marijuana impairment is not necessarily as relevant to states that have not legalized recreational marijuana use. In two of the states that have done so—in Colorado and Washington—lawmakers have established a THC limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. It isn’t clear from a scientific standpoint, though, how accurate it is to set such a limit since different people can be affected differently by THC. In some cases, drivers who are actually impaired at that level of THC might not be detected, and in other cases, those who have that amount of THC in their blood may not actually be significantly impaired.

In the end, what matters from a defense perspective is the law, and here in Florida, there are established rules regarding drugged driving. Whether or not these laws change with the advent of medical marijuana remains to be seen. When an individual faces drugged driving charges, or any federal or state charges involving marijuana, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to protect their rights and hold prosecutors to their burden of proof. In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at drugged driving law here in Florida.  

Sources:

U.S. News and World Report, “Drugged Driving Perplexes Scientists, Lawmakers,” Casey Leins, Aug. 22, 2014.

Governing.com, “State Marijuana Laws Map,” Accessed Nov. 20, 2015.

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