On January 1, 2018, recreational marijuana use became legal in California. The new law allows individuals 21 years of age and over to purchase and possess up to 1 ounce of the substance. However, although it is not unlawful to smoke it, driving while under its influence is prohibited. In a survey of Californians, although many know that driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal, they weren’t aware of the penalties.
The statutes concerning this type of offense are the same as those involving alcohol-related DUIs. Specifically, under California Penal Code 23152(f), drivers cannot operate a vehicle if they are “under the influence of any drug.”
However, the law does not state what amount of marijuana a person can have in their system while driving. With alcohol, the legal BAC limit is .08% for people operating passenger cars and .04% for commercial drivers.
Some officers are trained to determine if a person is under the influence of drugs. These drug recognition experts watch drivers’ for various clues to see if their behavior suggests that something other than alcohol is present in their systems.
One Southern California police department goes so far as taking a driver’s blood right on the spot to determine if marijuana is in their system. If it is, they are arrested and charged with a DUI.
Because the state does not have a legal blood alcohol concentration limit for marijuana, any amount could be used as evidence to argue that the driver could not safely operate a vehicle. The trouble with this is that the substance could be present in a person’s system for days after they have smoked or ingested it, meaning they may test positive but weren’t impaired.
The penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are the same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol. If convicted, a person could spend time in jail and face steep fines. Additionally, their driver’s license could be suspended.
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