While the nation voted for the President of the United States during the most recent elections, Californians and residents of other states voted on whether to make marijuana legal for recreational use. With the passage of Prop 64, California has voted to legalize recreational pot, along with Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada. However, some are concerned that easier access to marijuana will increase the rates of drugged driving.
According to an article in USA Today, the percentage of traffic deaths with a driver testing positive for drugs has doubled over the last ten years. More than half of all states have approved medical marijuana. Four states and the District of Columbia already have recreational marijuana, with 4 more states, including California, recently voting on similar measures.
One of the problems with regulating driving under the influence of marijuana is that the science is not as well understood when compared to alcohol. Different strains of marijuana can affect drivers in different ways. Another problem is that there is no consensus when it comes to testing drivers for marijuana use.
A recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) has found that six states rely on marijuana drug tests that have no scientific basis. The study evaluated data from almost 5,000 drivers arrested for a DUI with THC present in the body. The per se limit in Colorado, Washington, and Montana is THC concentrations above 5ng/mL. The study found that the THC threshold amounts would have misclassified many drivers as impaired even when they did not demonstrate any impairment in the standardized field sobriety tests.
Some police departments look for drug evidence in blood or urine samples. However, many of these tests only look for the indicators of marijuana use, rather than attempt to gauge how recently the driver might have used drugs. Evidence of marijuana use can stay in the body for days, or even weeks after use. However, the effects of marijuana usually wear off within a couple of hours.
Scientists, researchers, and police departments are working on new products to determine if a driver may be under the influence of marijuana, including using saliva tests and breath tests. However, these new tests are not well established, and do not have a long history of use, unlike alcohol breath testing devices.
Even after decades of use, alcohol breath testing devices can malfunction, give false positives, or give varying BAC levels. New technology that has not been vetted, or tested over time may cause innocent people to plead guilty to criminal DUI charges because they do not understand the limitations of a new drug testing device.
If you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested. At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending individuals charged with drug and alcohol offenses in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a drugged driving conviction can affect your future.