More and more states across the country are entertaining the idea of legalizing marijuana, whether for medical purposes or recreationally. As marijuana consumption has moved from the shadows and into the mainstream, serious questions are being raised about how to police it and how to enforce it. However, there are also questions being raised on how to track its impact in cases involving driving while under the influence.
As marijuana proliferates in our daily lives, how can police officers and other law enforcement officials detect and prove that a driver is under the influence of cannabis while operating their vehicle?
The differences between alcohol and marijuana during a DUI stop
Nowadays, police officers rely on a series of tests and instruments to detect whether or not a driver is under the influence of alcohol. These include breathalyzer tests, field sobriety tests, and in some cases, even blood work. But, alcohol is relatively easily detected within the human body, and we have developed a standardized testing mechanism for doing so. BAC, or blood alcohol content, is by no means an obscure technical term, as most if not all drivers are familiar with it.
However, testing for marijuana is decidedly trickier for several reasons. Typically, many states, including Tennessee, perform a blood test for marijuana. In our state, the presence of any amount of THC in the blood will generally establish that the driver was under the influence. In other states, including Washington, there's a number attached to the level of THC in the blood.
However, VICE recently argued that marijuana affects everyone differently, and a person's tolerance level may be dependent on several factors, including frequency and amount of consumption. Therefore, can a person who doesn't believe they are impaired on marijuana actually be impaired? Is there a legal defense for those who are stopped for an alcohol DUI compared to those who are stopped for a marijuana DUI?
The simple answer is that it's too early to tell. As our country is working towards opening up the dialogue regarding marijuana usage, both medicinal and recreational, these questions may begin to be answered. In the meantime, it's a good idea to reach out to an attorney if you or a loved one have been stopped for a marijuana related DUI.