An interesting #dilemma


Several states have long decriminalized “medical” marijuana.  Recently Colorado (55% for and 45% against) and Washington (55.5 for and 44.5 against) enacted legislation to decriminalize possession and recreational use of marijuana.  As with any change in the law, there are other consequences involved.  Putting aside the issues of state law vs. federal law, one of the most significant of those issues is driving while under the influence of marijuana.  While few people go home, smoke marijuana and beat up their family, it is not infrequent that people impaired by marijuana cause car wrecks.   I am not sure if the primary cause is that they were reaching for Cheetos, popping down gummy bears, or just swerved after dropping a joint, but we often see defendants charged with DUI “other.”

The problem with DUI other with marijuana is trying to find an accurate method of determining impairment.   It appears the states  that have decriminalized marijuana are grappling with this issue.  Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has a sense of humor about the whole situation, “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

Regardless of how citizens feel about decriminalization or what amount shows impairment, I suspect that public sentiment favoring legalization will change if there is a significant increase in serious injuries in marijuana related wrecks.  We can only hope that partakers will stay at home rather than getting behind the wheel.


About randywallace
I am a husband, father, attorney, outdoorsman and cook.

4 Responses to An interesting #dilemma

  1. sclines says:

    I don’t think there’s going to be a significant uptick in DUI arrests or accidents because of these new laws. If someone wants to try pot for the first time because it’s now legal, they’re going to be way too freaked out to drive. I do agree, though, that it will be difficult to determine intoxication. It probably won’t be through a positive drug test because defense attorneys will, rightfully so, simply start parading experts in front of juries to testify that a positive test does not indicate anyone was intoxicated at a particular time. It will be akin to the standard “officer, you would agree that the mere presence of an odor of alcohol does not indicate a person is intoxicated, correct?” cross that is a part of most DUI trials. Marijuana can stay in the system for 30 days after ingestion. These will be fact-intensive trials. The best thing someone can do if they are arrested, probably, is refuse FSEs, resign themselves to spending the night in jail, and retaining an attorney to make the state prove the charge. I say “probably” because how one conducts themselves during a stop rests in large part on the particular circumstances of the stop.

  2. bellesouth says:

    Have you ever heard of a wreck being caused by being high on marijuana? No, you might have seen someone get a ticket for driving too slow but that’s about it.

  3. randywallace says:

    Belle, we have been involved in litigation where the defendant had marijuana in his system at the time of the collision. Now can I say with absolute certainty that the marijuana was the sole cause of the wreck rather than the defendant’s otherwise poor driving skills? No, but it certainly didn’t help.

    Typically but not always, when we get a tox report back that is hot on marijuana, we also see ETOH.

  4. Pingback: Driving high | randywallace

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