Driving while impaired by any drug is illegal anywhere in the United States, but as medical marijuana is permitted and popularized across the US, law enforcement officials are left with the burden of determining exactly how stoned is too stoned to drive safely, and whether impairment can be judged with a blood test at all.
Police officers are currently using their observations and training with Field Sobriety Tests, followed later by blood tests to determine the presence of THC, the psychoactive chemical found naturally in cannabis. The presence of marijuana in a person’s bloodstream has not been conclusively linked to accident likelihood, but with 16 states currently permitting medical marijuana use and D.C. recently getting the green light for dispensaries as well, there are more patients left in this legal gray area of “impaired driving” than ever.
“The explosion of medical marijuana patients has led to a lot of drivers sticking the (marijuana) card in law enforcement’s face saying ‘You can’t do anything to me, I’m legal,’ ” says Sean McAllister, a lawyer who defends people charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. Of course officers can and will arrest anyone they deem to be too impaired or intoxicated to be behind the wheel, but without a legal threshold for cannabis where do they draw the line? Some states have opted for a 0 tolerance policy, effectively banning many patients from a paranoia free drive, as THC can be detected in the bloodstream for days to months after consumption, depending on personal factors and frequency of use. 2 states have a 2 nanogram per milliliter restriction, and Colorado and Washington are currently weighing a limit of 5 nanograms per ml with legalization for adults.
While urine and blood tests are completely reliable to detect the presence of marijuana in a person’s bloodstream, the risk posed by stoned drivers has yet to be determined conclusively, and the tests detecting marijuana’s presence in the bloodstream long after any effects have faded pose a significant threat to banning patients from driving at all.
Read proposed laws carefully, no one wants dangerous road ways yet cannabis users who have followed their doctor’s recommendations may be skirted aside under the guise of safety.
Stay informed, stay high.