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 DUI Laws and Marijuana

With the passage of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, in 2016, recreational marijuana use by adults became legal in California. With its passage, however, there are concerns about how marijuana use will be affected by the state’s statutes on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Proposition 64 had no technical effect on California’s DUI laws. Prior to its passage, it was illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of any drug, legal or not. Therefore, the legalization of marijuana has no effect on the legality of driving while under the influence of marijuana. It was illegal before 2016, and it is illegal now. But measuring marijuana’s impairment on drivers can be problematic for law enforcement.

Unlike alcohol, where there is a scientific correlation between blood alcohol level and impairment, marijuana has no such threshold. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “a quantitative threshold for per se laws for THC following cannabis use cannot be scientifically supported.” THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — the compound that produces the “high.” Therefore, law enforcement is left with field sobriety tests and drug recognition training programs in order to determine whether an individual is under the influence of marijuana.

Law enforcement is still likely to request a blood test if they suspect that you were driving under the influence of marijuana. But if THC is found within your bloodstream, you won’t automatically be considered “intoxicated” under California law, because there is no legal threshold for THC levels. The results of your blood alcohol tests will be entered into evidence, however, and evaluated by the finder of fact.

If you are charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, you may have several defenses. You could:

  • Challenge the sobriety test
  • Prove to the court that you were not impaired
  • Attack the prosecution’s case for procedural misconduct or test errors with hopes of excluding damaging evidence

Each case is different and should be discussed with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can examine the facts and advise on the best course of action. If you’ve been charged with marijuana DUI in California, Amber Gordon, Attorney at Law can provide the advice and advocacy your case deserves. Call us at 310-773-3980 or contact us online to arrange a consultation at our Los Angeles office.

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