In many states, cannabis DUI laws are treated like alcohol DUI laws.But a cannabis DUI and an alcohol DUI should be treated differently for many reasons. One example of their difference is how THC and alcohol levels are metabolized. THC stays in the body for weeks after consuming while alcohol is purged in several hours. Yet the highs last about the same amount of time.Getting pulled over weeks after smoking results in drivers getting charged with a DUI. That’s because it’s difficult for cops to determine how recently a driver smoked a bowl. Traditional sobriety tests don’t correspond to cannabis effects either. For example, a stoned driver can stand on one leg while a drunk driver cannot.Scott Leist was a Seattle police officer, and a defense attorney for the Washington Traffic Defense. Leist agrees that Washington’s Cannabis DUI laws are a problem. In Washington, there is a .08 limit for alcohol and THC, but THC is nothing like alcohol.Leist said, “some studies suggest that driving with moderate levels of THC in one’s system can actually improve driving performance.” There is simply no good science about what determines impaired driving with weed and what doesn’t.THC doesn’t metabolize quickly and completely like alcohol.Leist found that alcohol can metabolize quickly, meaning that it is easy to test when the last time alcohol was consumed. Marijuana is different because a person can consume weed and be impaired for a few hours. But THC stays in the system long after the consumption and high phase.How quickly and completely THC metabolizes depends on a few factors. Namely; how it was consumed and when, how often the person consumes, and the potency of the substance. Small amounts of THC can be found days or even weeks after consumption. At the other end, a heavy consumer can test over the 5ng/mL limit long after they are sober.Alcohol has more exact prediction than weed. What is the marijuana equivalent of two beers? How much THC at what age and weight will get a person to 5ng/mL levels? How fast does THC wear off for each person? Nobody knows the answers to these questions because cannabis research is hampered by federal scheduling. Alcohol has no scheduling restrictions to prevent accurate studies so much more research is available.There are no accurate field sobriety tests for THC intoxication.Police Officers don’t have a lot of experience or training for marijuana DUI detection’s. Smell alone is not a good clue for recent intoxication. Physical signs like red eyes is not enough to prove that a person is THC impaired.There are a variety of reasons a driver might experience the ‘signs of THC intoxication’. A person crying or struggling with allergies causes red eyes. Fatigue can also reproduce the short-term memory issues associated with weed.The best method cops have available is a warrant granted blood test. But blood tests don’t reveal when the last time the driver consumed weed. Unlike alcohol, there is no way to check if a person has had too much THC. There is no breathalyzer that would reveal THC impairment. A person can’t give themselves a field sobriety test like the alcohol tests.Abby McLean drove sober and received a DUI.Northglen, Colorado resident Abby McLean went through a DUI roadside checkpoint on her way home. She is 30, had nothing to drink or smoke that night and had no worries. When the cop walked up to her car he saw that she had blood shot eyes and smelled weed in the car.The cop pulled out his handcuffs to arrests McLean when she exclaimed that she was on her way home to her children. McLean was forced to take a blood test which tested positive for THC intoxication. Her blood test was 5 times over the legal limit. She didn’t go to jail that night but she did go to court. It was a hung jury, but McLean settled for a lesser punishment.Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at New York University. Kleiman said, “you can be positive for THC a week after the last time you used cannabis. Not subjectively impaired at all, not impaired at all by any objective measure, but still positive.”It didn’t matter that McLean hadn’t smoked at all that night. If she smoked a week ago, she still got a cannabis DUI. Denver, Colorado’s District Attorney Mitch Morrissey says that Colorado won’t completely throw out the THC blood test. He then explained how it gives courts an extra piece of evidence during trials.How to travel with cannabis in the car.Scientists at UCSD are researching a new generation of cannabis field sobriety tests. One of these tests is called critical tracking. A person moves their finger around a square on a tablet to measure time distortion, because time can slow down when a person is high.
Tiger Woods isn’t the only one driving under the influence of prescription drugs.
Woods, the former No. 1 golfer in the world, was arrested early Monday near his home on Jupiter Island, Fla., for driving under the influence. Police reportedly found him asleep at the steering wheel of a running vehicle and arrested him because of his slurred speech and for failing police-instructed roadside tasks. But his alcohol breath test was zero. In a statement late Monday, Woods said, “I take full responsibility for my actions. I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.” Woods had back surgery last month.
Crashes involving drugged drivers have nearly doubled over the last decade. In 2015, 21% of the 32,166 fatal crashes in the U.S. involved one driver who tested positive for drugs, up from 12% of the 39,252 fatal crashes in 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to data released last year by the government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Use of marijuana and prescription drugs is increasingly prominent among drivers on America’s roads, which raises a new safety challenge,” the NHTSA says. “While it’s illegal across the United States to drive while drunk, the laws involving drugged driving vary across the states.”
Video footage released online showed former “Dynasty” star Linda Evans, 74, being arrested in 2014 in Washington State for a DUI after driving erratically. “Unfortunately, I believe that you are under the influence,” the police officer told the actress. She was given a ticket for DUI in the footage first released last March, but this was later amended to reckless driving. Police found 30 pink pills in her car, which Evans said she used as muscle relaxers. “It’s true I was driving while being in physical pain,” Evans told People magazine, but I was not impaired by any narcotic. I did not take any opiate or alcohol.” (Her management did not immediately reply to a request for comment.)
Marijuana is another problem for road safety. Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in Washington State to 17% in 2014 from 8% in 2013 after the legalization of the drug there, according to a study released last year by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Legal limits for marijuana and driving are arbitrary and unsupported by science, “which could result in unsafe motorists going free and others being wrongfully convicted for impaired driving,” AAA spokeswoman Tamra Johnson said. Recreational sales of marijuana ballooned 80% to $1.8 billion in 2016, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily.
Another recent survey by the NHTSA found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, which may be due to the legalization of marijuana in many states, but that the increased risk may be due in part because they are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. “In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men — a group already at high risk,” the study found. While fatal traffic accidents have declined gradually over the last 10 to 15 years helped by stricter laws related to drunk driving and public safety awareness campaigns, it has crept back up over the last year amid other concerns related to texting while driving.
The spike in fatalities involving drugged drivers is likely an indication of the wider problem. The rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2015, adjusted for age, was more than 2.5 times the rate in 1999, according to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, due to a fall in the price of heroin and accessibility to prescription drugs. The rate of drug overdose deaths increased to 16.3 per 100,000 in 2015 from 6.1 per 100,000 people in 1999, an average rise of 5.5% a year. The biggest spike in fatal drug overdoses took place among Generation X and baby boomers, the CDC concluded.
Some states have created legal limits, also known as “per se limits,” which specify the maximum amount of active tetrahydrocannabinol or THC that drivers can have in their system based on a blood test. THC is the main chemical component in marijuana that can impair driver performance and affect the mind, and the presence of active THC is generally suggestive of recent marijuana use. These limits are similar in concept to the 0.08% blood alcohol limit for driving under the influence of alcohol. But DUIs do run the gamut from marijuana and alcohol to muscle relaxers and prescription pain killers, especially if it leads to impaired driving.
DUIs laws for alcohol also vary by state. Arizona is one of the strictest states for DUIs and has the longest minimum jail term (10 days) for first-time offenders, a vehicle impound and a 90-day minimum jail time for a second offense; DUI is an automatic felony with a third offense and an ignition interlock device is mandatory after one DUI conviction. South Dakota is the least strict out of all 50 states, as it has no minimum sentence for either a first or second DUI; although a third DUI is considered a felony in that state, there is no administrative license suspension, no vehicle impound, no administrative license suspension and no mandatory ignition interlock device required.