Medical Marijuana And DUI

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) law is a complex and confusing set of rules and regulations. The complexity only increases when you add in the Department of Licensing, Insurance, required treatment and the legal system in general. It is helpful to have a Snohomish County DUI attorney involved early to help navigate the issues and make sure there are no surprises. The legalization of marijuana only  increased the complexity of DUI law.

There are many circumstances that can lead to being arrested for DUI. For alcohol and marijuana, there is a presumptive limit (.08 and 5 nanograms of THC). This means that even if you appear to be completely sober, if the test results are above the presumptive level you could be found guilty of DUI. For all drugs and alcohol, the State can still proceed with DUI charges without a test (or a test showing below the legal limit) if they believe they can show that your driving was affected by the drugs or alcohol.

This presumptive limit of 5 nanograms for marijuana, combined with the affected by option if a test is not done, creates a unique problem for medical marijuana users. As the body process active THC, it is metabolized into Carboxy THC (this is an over simplification, but one which the courts follow). Carboxy TCH is stored in the bodies fat cells and can be present for around 30 days. The Carboxy number is not used in determining the presumptive level, only the active THC component is used. However, the prosecutor and the judge will see the Carboxy levels and may make certain assumptions about the individuals use of marijuana.

The difficulty for medical marijuana users comes in the determination of when it is safe for them to drive. Unlike alcohol, there is not a well know percentage indicator (proof for alcohol) that informs the user of the TCH content and how long it will take to process  through the body. Additionally, the THC metabolization is different in every person, especially between those of greatly different weights. Now some dispensaries do a great job of providing THC counts on their product. There are a lot of products that are genetically modified to help certain illnesses or symptoms and have very specific THC levels. These products must be treated just like any other prescription. Speak with the provider and your doctor and determine when it would be safe for you to drive after consuming the product. Your provider and doctor should be able to take into account the specific product (and THC content), your body, and your needs. Having a medical marijuana card will not prevent a DUI if you are either driving while being affect by marijuana (the THC component at least) or have greater than 5 nanograms of THC in your blood.

If you or someone you know has a medical marijuana card and has been charged with a Snohomish County Marijuana DUI, you need the help of a DUI attorney that is familiar with the specific needs of a medical marijuana user. The courts, prosecutors, and even treatment agencies still have a long way go in accepting medical marijuana as an alternative to harsh pharmaceuticals. Contact the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy, (206) 427-4901.


2 thoughts on “Medical Marijuana And DUI

  1. This is very informative. I have also heard a concern about medical marijuana which is that employers currently need not accept it as a medication, meaning that someone prescribed medical could fail a entrance drug test in principle.


    1. Thank you and that is absolutely correct. Since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, employers are free to discriminate in terms of not accepting any potential employees that use marijuana medically. Other prescriptions that are FDA approved have some protection, but since Washington is a work at will State, businesses are free to set their own policy in regards to marijuana, both recreational and medical use.

      Liked by 1 person

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