For most people, “DUI” is synonymous with “driving drunk.” Although alcohol is the most common drug in DUI cases, any intoxicating substance could lead to DUI charges. Most notably, cannabis use could lead to a DUI offense. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse now reports that THC is the second most common substance found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes.
No matter how lenient a state is on recreational pot, law enforcement takes cannabis DUIs seriously. Cannabis consumers should know their state laws regarding marijuana DUIs and what to expect from a DUI test. Knowing the penalties associated with cannabis DUIs should help consumers understand what’s expected of them when driving.
How Do US States Define A Cannabis DUI?
Interestingly, most states don’t have minimum THC thresholds for cannabis DUI convictions. This means that as long as there’s some THC in a driver’s system, and the officer reasonably suspects a driver is intoxicated, it’s enough to charge them with a DUI offense. Even if motorists weren’t involved in a crash, they could face a DUI conviction if officers detect any THC in their system.
As legalized cannabis use has expanded, some states have added a minimum THC threshold for a DUI conviction. For instance, in Colorado and Washington State, a driver with five nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood can be prosecuted for a cannabis DUI.
What is a Cannabis DUI According to the Police?
The top reason police pull people over for suspected cannabis DUI is the same as alcohol DUI: erratic driving. If a driver randomly stops and starts their car, doesn’t obey traffic signals, speeds or drives over curbs, officers may pull the vehicle over and suspect the driver is intoxicated.
When police suspect someone of using weed behind the wheel, they will first inspect the vehicle for signs of marijuana use. This could include traces of the plant as well as marijuana paraphernalia. Police will also pay close attention to a driver’s behavior, appearance, and scent. Any of these features could contribute to reasonable suspicion of cannabis use.
For a more thorough roadside cannabis screening, the police may call in a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Many of the assessments DREs use for suspected cannabis users are identical to alcohol-related field sobriety tests. The main goal behind these tests is to assess a driver’s balance and coordination.
For instance, drivers may be asked to walk from heel to toe for nine steps, turn, and walk back. Sometimes DREs ask DUI suspects to stand on one foot for a few seconds. In most cannabis-related cases, DREs carefully scan a driver’s eyes for involuntary movements and dilation.
Depending on the results from these sobriety tests, police may request a driver to submit a urine or blood sample. For regular cannabis consumers these tests often reveal the presence of delta-9 THC or other THC metabolites.
Could Police Legally Test Me for THC?
To understand how police could legally request a drug test, it’s essential to understand the concept of “implied consent.” Under this law, drivers have agreed to give a sobriety-related chemical test whenever police request one. You can’t legally drive in any US state without submitting to this standard practice.
So, if the police suspect you’re under the influence of marijuana while driving, they can legally require you to take a drug test. Every state forbids motorists from using intoxicants before or while driving on the state’s roads. To enforce this law, police have the authority to arrest anyone they suspect of using substances like THC.
Technically, drivers could refuse to take a DUI drug test, but this decision has significant repercussions. Most notably, drivers may face an automatic license suspension for refusing a drug test. This refusal could also be used as evidence against the driver in a future trial.
It is important that cannabis consumers understand their rights as drivers. For example, many states allow drivers to contact a lawyer before agreeing to take a DUI drug screening. It’s also possible, in some states, for drivers to get a second drug screening from a registered doctor or laboratory. Some states even allow drivers to choose a physician they feel comfortable working with.
How Do Police Measure THC In A Person’s Body?
There are a few ways to test a person’s THC concentration, but the standard method is to scan a urine sample. While less common, police could also request a blood, hair, or saliva test to detect THC concentration. It is important to note that these tests only confirm the presence of THC or THC metabolites, not that a driver was intoxicated.
Currently, it’s impossible to detect THC metabolites with a breathalyzer machine. Although some scientists are working on a cannabis-specific breathalyzer, it’s unlikely this machine will be ready for at least a few years.
How Fast Does THC Leave A Person’s System?
Scientists still don’t know everything about THC’s half-life, but most studies suggest it usually takes days for THC to clear a user’s system. Indeed, most medical experts claim THC metabolites could appear on a urine test about three to five days after smoking just one joint.
As someone uses cannabis more often it is more likely THC will stay in their system after the most pronounced effects fade. THC and resultant metabolites take a long time to clear a person’s endocannabinoid system. In some cases, THC could linger in a person’s body for weeks or months. So, even if a regular cannabis smoker doesn’t feel intoxicated, they could have a significant amount of THC in t
Since everyone has a unique metabolism and endocannabinoid system, each patient will absorb THC at different rates. There’s also evidence that age and weight could influence how long THC stays in a person’s bloodstream.
It’s worth noting many legal CBD products could affect a THC drug screening as well. Full-spectrum CBD oils could have ≤ 0.3 percent THC, so it’s possible THC metabolites could appear in a urine sample after consuming CBD containing products.
Also, many trendy hemp THC alternatives like delta-8 or delta-10 are virtually indistinguishable from delta-9 THC. These new cannabinoids also have a long half-life, which means they could influence a drug screening long after consuming them.
What Are The Penalties For A Cannabis DUI?
The consequences of a cannabis DUI are similar to those in an alcohol DUI conviction. Although every state has nuanced punishments, most include a temporary license suspension, a mandatory drug education course, and a fine. It’s also possible for cannabis DUI convicts to get a jail sentence.
Concerned About Cannabis DUI? reepher Could Help!
Considering most states have no minimum THC threshold for a DUI conviction, cannabis consumers face serious risks if they drive with the slightest trace of THC in their system. With few exceptions, police can charge a driver with a marijuana DUI no matter how little THC is in their test if their driving behavior suggests or implies intoxication. The penalties drivers will face for a cannabis DUI conviction are severe and not to be taken lightly!
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