What Effect Could Marijuana Legalization Have on DUI Laws

Alma L. Figueroa

Lately there has been a real push for Marijuana legalization throughout the country. One of the issues that come with such a radical change in the law that is rarely discussed is what kind of impact would Marijuana legalization would have on DUI laws.

If Marijuana legalization does actually gain some serious traction in my opinion there are two issues that need to be resolved when it comes to Marijuana DUI cases. The first issue is whether there would be a legal limit of Marijuana, and secondly would both the active and inactive levels of Marijuana be criminalized.

The first issue that needs to be determined is what the legal limit would be. In the United States there are several states that have enacted per se laws for Marijuana DUI cases meaning they have established a legal limit. For example in Nevada and Ohio there is a 2 nanogram limit. In other words that is their equivalent of a.08 alcohol level for alcohol related DUI charges. Based on the research I have done it is interesting that Nevada’s strict per se laws caused an increase of Marijuana DUI arrests by 76%, while Ohio’s enactment of these laws caused a decreased of 4.8%

The second issue that needs to be determined is whether both the active THC and the inactive metabolite of THC will be criminalized. Those states that have per se DUI laws have also created a higher level of inactive THC metabolite, taking into consideration that the longer is stays in the system the less impact it will have on impairing an individual. For example both Nevada and Ohio have a 10 nanogram limit of the inactive metabolite.

In my opinion if these issues are not determined than this area of law will continue to be very murky when it comes to DUIs. In fact whenever I represent someone charged with a Marijuana DUI, it really seems that different Prosecutors seem to have different thoughts about at what point the Marijuana impairs the individual. A toxicologist is usually employed by the Prosecution to testify about the effects of Marijuana on the human body, at what levels are generally considered impairing based on different studies. Because of the ambiguities and all the different scientific theories out there regarding this, usually the Defense also employs an expert to counter what the Prosecutors expert states.

If the legalization of Marijuana does happen and the two issues I discussed are considered than it would make this area of law much more concrete and would help individuals understand the impairment than Marijuana can cause on one’s ability to operative a vehicle.

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