Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Posted by Seth Chazin | Aug 22, 2016 | 0 Comments


As a November ballot measure would legalize recreational pot use in California, law enforcement is having a hard time trying to tackle the question of how high is too high to drive. Police have a hard time detecting who is driving under the influence of marijuana, as there are no equivalents to the blood-alcohol content tests.

This is not a major concern for marijuana advocates, even as companies try to develop a better sobriety test for pot smokers.  Currently, California law bans driving under the influence of psychoactive substances, including weed (CA Penal Code 23152 (e)) .But with no definitive measurement for intoxication, arrests are often challenging, with officers relying on evidence like indecisiveness behind the wheel or the scent of weed inside a car.

The lack of clear measures for detecting marijuana usage while driving is one reason many police agencies and political leaders have opposed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, known as Proposition 64. Voters in four other states also will weigh in on legalization, and they could join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia in sanctioning adult use of the drug,

Advocates for marijuana legalization see the focus on doped driving as a distraction, questioning whether authorizing pot use would affect the roadways since California already has a substantial medical marijuana industry and there is little evidence as to the impairments of driving when under the influence of marijuana.

Recent studies have not found any link to marijuana usage and car accidents. A report last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated the agency “did not find an increase in population-based crash risk associated with THC use.”

The active ingredient in pot, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is fat-soluble and binds with different receptors in the body more than alcohol, which is water-soluble. As a result, THC levels can be the same in a person who smoked 15 minutes ago or a week ago. For this reason, it is extremely difficult to prove that a driver who may appear to be under the influence of weed is actually inebriated.

To treat driving under the influence of marijuana and alcohol makes no sense. With alcohol, drivers tend to have an increased confidence, which can lead to recklessness. It also skews reaction time and blurs perception.  Marijuana, on the other hand, often inspires self-reflection, which can cause motorists to be more cautious and drive more slowly.

If you've been arrested or are under the investigation for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, call us immediately at 415-222-6188.

About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 25 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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Seth P. Chazin is a San Francisco Bay Area Criminal Defense Lawyer with over 30 years experience.

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