With the holiday season here it is time for many people to visit friends and family, sometimes over long distances. For years, there have been public service messages regarding drinking and driving over the holiday season, as many families partake over food. While DUI enforcement for drinking continues to be a priority on California roadways, the increasing use of medical marijuana and the discussion regarding legalization of marijuana in California and neighboring states has made drugged driving prevention a focus of law enforcement this year, as well.
No THC threshold
Unlike alcohol, there is no bright-line limit to how much marijuana needs to be in a person’s bloodstream in order for that person to be presumptively too under the influence to drive. In some states, such as Washington, the law holds that driving with 5ng/ml of active THC in the bloodstream is a DUI. In other states, such as Nevada, Arizona and Utah, even trace amounts of marijuana can lead to a DUI – even weeks after using. Measuring THC content in blood is not necessarily the best measure when determining impairment after using cannabis, but many people favor having such a standard.
In California, an officer will use standard field sobriety tests when determining if a person is too impaired to drive. These tests may include standing on one leg, reciting the alphabet backwards and checking horizontal eye movement, among others. A driver can refuse to submit to these tests, but refusing to perform a field sobriety test can be seen by the court as evidence of guilt. Refusing to submit to a breath, urine or blood test when pulled over is a crime in California.
When transporting medical marijuana in California, a person is only allowed to bring enough cannabis for personal use. People visiting California from states that allow recreational marijuana use can still be arrested for transporting non-medicinal marijuana. California law holds that a person can only transport enough medical marijuana for personal use, considering the distance, method and timing of the transportation. While again there is no bright-line rule that a certain amount of marijuana is too much, large amounts will result in criminal prosecution.
The push for marijuana legalization has gained ground in recent years. However, marijuana use can still lead to a DUI, and at no time are police more aware of driving under the influence than during the holiday season. Californians accused of DUI or of marijuana possession or transportation should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney to discuss their legal rights and options.