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Marijuana and Driving

Marijuana DUIs are every bit as serious as alcohol-related DUIs.  While the legalization of marijuana has significantly changed society's view on this drug, it has not affected law enforcement's position.  Driving under the influence of marijuana carries the same penalties as drunk driving in the State of Washington.  Furthermore, Washington is one of only a handful of states that has established a marijuana legal limit.  Most troubling is that Washington's extremely low legal limit has no basis in science or medicine.  Driving under the influence of marijuana is literally a zero tolerance crime in Washington when you consider out 5.00 ng/100 mL legal limit.  

The Effects of Marijuana on the Body and Marijuana DUIs

Marijuana users may experience some temporary physical and mental side-effects of their habits. In general, their abilities to think and process information, perceive location and distances, and coordinate their bodies can be impaired by marijuana ingestion.  Users may also experience anxiety or panic attacks and their short-term memories may be compromised.

Studies on how marijuana affects one's driving abilities were conducted in 1994 and the results indicated that drivers under the influence of cannabis performed slightly worse than sober drivers. The main issue that drivers under the influence of marijuana exhibited was an inability to maintain lateral position on the road. This phenomenon was likely linked to the effects cannabis has on people's abilities to perceive their surroundings, react, and coordinate or control their bodies.  Only small doses of the drug were used, however, for safety reasons, so there is no scientific research on the effects of heavy marijuana doses on drivers.

None of this matters much to law enforcement.  If an officer believes you are under the influence of marijuana, you will be asked to submit to field sobriety tests the same as if you had been drinking.  Although these tests were never designed to detect marijuana impairment, that will not stop the police from utilizing them.  If an officer believes your ability to drive has been affected by marijuana ingestion, you will be arrested for driving under the influence.  Following your arrest, a blood test will likely be administered to determine THC concentration.  

If an officer asks you to "consent" to a blood test, you should politely decline.  There is no penalty for refusing a voluntary blood test (different than a breath test).  However, if the officer has obtained a search warrant for your blood, a blood test will be administered whether you consent or not.  If police posses a valid search warrant, a driver should not resist.  

Contact Us If You've Been Arrested for a Marijuana DUI

If you have been charged with Marijuana DUI or if you would like to learn more about how marijuana may affect your driving, contact the Seattle DUI lawyers of Cowan Kirk at 1-866-822-1230 with your questions and concerns.

Cowan Kirk Kattenhorn

Cowan Kirk is known throughout Washington and the nation for representing all of its clients with commitment, creativity and compassion. We recognize how devastating a DUI charge can be, particularly when our clients learn how incredibly tough Washington's DUI laws have become, even for a first-time offender.

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If you need a DUI defense attorney in Seattle, Bellevue, or King County, contact us today to find out why respect for our clients, a passion for justice, and our commitment to winning have earned each of us the highest honor a member of the bar can receive from our colleagues – their referrals.