Is a cannabis DUI really a thing? Adult use of cannabis may be legal in California, but driving under the influence of cannabis is not. Like alcohol, if you are found to be under the influence of cannabis while driving, you are guilty of DUI under Vehicle Code 23152(e)VC which states that a person is guilty if he or she drives while mental abilities are impaired by cannabis to the extent that he or she is unable to drive with the caution of a sober person using ordinary care.
Bottom line is any amount of cannabis consumption, whether that is ADULT USE or medical marijuana, puts you at risk of a DUI.
How is a Cannabis DUI Measured?
There is currently no standardized amount that has been widely accepted to be a reliable measure for the effect of cannabis on the brain. Why? There hasn’t been a chemically based test created that standardizes the effect of cannabis because everyone’s biochemistry is different.
In the meantime, California may adopt DUI standards that have been in place in other states that have decriminalized cannabis and is legal for adult use. For example, Colorado’s standard for DUI is having more than five (5) nanograms of THC per milliliter (ml) of blood. However, scientifically that doesn’t tell us much. Does not tell officers if a detained person is still intoxicated and it does not conclusively tell officers if someone is impaired or not.
Why Is It So Hard to Tell If Someone Is High?
Let’s take alcohol as an example. Ethanol, alcohol in beverages, is water soluble. We are made up of a lot of water – up to 60% in adults. Because we are made up of water, ethanol is flushed out of our bodies in hours.
THC on the other hand is fat soluble. It gets trapped in our fat stores in our bodies making the length of time that THC spends in the body variable from person to person. Its fat soluble qualities makes THC leech out of our fat stores over time and is the reason you can still test positive for THC up to 30 days after consuming cannabis.
What is a Cannabis DUI Based On?
Law enforcement will use many factors in determining whether a person is driving while impaired. Some factors may include:
- Circumstantial evidence (open containers, cannabis paraphernalia, etc.)
- Roadside sobriety tests
- Dilated pupils
- Odor of cannabis on body
- Red eyes
- Slowed reaction time
- Officer’s best guess
What Are The Penalties: 1st time Cannabis DUI
Penalties for a first time cannabis DUI offense may vary from case to case, but the basic guidelines may include:
- Informal probation with a three to five year duration
- Anywhere from four days to six months in county jail
- A fine that could range anywhere from $390 – $1,000 plus any legal and court fees that you may incur during the process
- Six month suspension of a driver’s license
- Required attendance of DUI school for three to nine months
Any or all of these penalties may be augmented if the detained person on suspicion of DUI refuses to cooperate or refuses the chemical test.
Additional Penalties to DUI
- Up to two (2) extra days in jail
- A one year suspension of a driver’s license
- Nine months of required DUI education courses
Avoiding A Cannabis DUI
Ultimately if the arresting officer decides that someone is driving high, they will be going to jail. Since there is no reliable way to measure the effects on the brain it is up to the full discretion of the arresting officer.
The only way to avoid a cannabis DUI is to not drive while consuming, and to not drive while you are impaired. Consume cannabis responsibly – there are too many options available as means of transportation to put your rights, freedoms, and the lives of you and others in jeopardy.