The Denver Post recently reported a very disturbing statistic: since 2013, the number of Colorado drivers involved in fatal crashes who also tested positive for marijuana has doubled. In California, the Highway Patrol has tried to get ahead of this issue - if you’ve driven on a freeway in the last few months, you’ve probably seen the seen the signs: “Drive High, Get a DUI.”
The signs are part of CHP’s public education efforts on the dangers of smoking cannabis and driving. Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as cannabis DUI, and here’s what you should know about it.
How Much THC Is Considered Over the Legal Limit in California?
California, like Oregon, has no legal impairment limit for cannabis. The reason? Cannabis affects every person differently, so there’s no reliable test to determine when you last smoked, how much you smoked, and if you’re too stoned to be driving. Think of it this way: a daily medical user with a THC level of 2 ng/ml (Nevada’s legal limit) might not feel anything, while a new user with the same level might be so high they’re on the moon.
The lack of a "per se" limit doesn’t mean you can take a few bong rips and get behind the wheel. Instead, marijuana DUIs will be determined by a “totality of evidence,” beyond just chemical blood tests.
How Cops Determine if You’re Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis
In no uncertain terms, if a cop sees you smoking while you’re driving, that’s grounds for a DUI charge and an open container citation. Absent that direct visual proof, there are several ways officers can determine your impairment, including:
- Your driving pattern
- Your statements to the police
- Your physical appearance
- Your performance on field sobriety tests
- The presence of marijuana or paraphernalia in your car or on your person
- Evidence that you are addicted to marijuana
Some police departments now use oral swabs to test for the presence of the “active” THC compound that’s responsible for getting you high (the non-active compounds are the ones that stay in your blood for weeks). If the swab tests positive, you’ll most likely be required to take a blood test. Even if you refuse these tests, you can still be charged.
The Penalties for Marijuana DUI in California
In California, the penalties for marijuana DUI are the same as those for alcohol DUI. First-time offenders are subject to jail time, fines, a suspended license and more; and, like with alcohol, penalties are more severe for injury accidents. There’s also no difference between a cannabis DUI and alcohol DUI - if you have a previous conviction for alcohol DUI, a marijuana DUI within the same 10-year period counts as a second offense, and can be punished as such.
The bottom line? When in doubt, just don’t drive. Put your keys away and sober up, nominate a designated driver, or take a Lyft. Better yet, place an order for delivery and let us take care of the rest!
Want more stories like this delivered right to your inbox along with exclusive discounts and access to Caliva events? Sign up now! (we promise we won't blow up your inbox)