Is it okay to drive if I am a marijuana patient?
There are no extraordinary driving restrictions for anyone who has a legal prescription for medical marijuana. Marijuana is still a controlled substance similar to alcohol in some respects, especially regarding the age requirement to possess the sedative. While it may be legal to possess marijuana, it is still not legal to drive impaired. The problem is that the states have yet to develop a field test procedure other than physical observation that can prove impairment, unless an officer wants to obtain a search warrant for intoxication levels via blood analysis.
Determining Latency and Drug Levels
California and Colorado have both addressed the issue of driving under the influence of marijuana, but little definitive determination has resulted. Colorado set the THC concentration level at five nanograms per milliliter, but California attempted to lower the level to two nanograms, based on the concept that three nanograms per milliliter equals a roughly .05 blood-alcohol content driving ability impairment. That consumption is subjective at best, as no tests have actually determined that estimation as accurate.
Based on the fact that THC will store in the fat cells of a user for as long as 30 days, the actual amount of the active ingredient in the system at one particular time still requires a blood test. Even a urine analysis is ineffective for immediate concentration levels. This measure did not pass, by the way, as many medical marijuana patients and attorneys alike argued that medical marijuana users would technically be restricted from driving completely because of latent THC levels.
Methods of Usage Often Vary in Users
Another component to the marijuana legal driving issue is the method in which THC is taken. Chemically termed as tetrahydrocannabinol, THC can be consumed in a variety of ways, and the method used can make a major difference in sedation. While alcohol speeds up the system, even though it is classified as a depressant, marijuana has the exact opposite impact on the user.
Smoking the drug is traditionally the most commonly associated method of consumption, but smoking marijuana can be done by either a rolled paper or a pipe. Regular users will often purchase elaborate smoking pipes, which can produce a much more intensive effect when a large amount of the substance is inhaled. Individuals who do not tolerate smoke well can opt to take marijuana-concentrated foods, as such as brownies or other treats. The concentration levels are easier to measure in food products, but the impact can also be much more intensive. In addition, the drug stays in the system longer as the food passes through the body. This too will increase the levels of latent THC.
Combining Medications Can Be Serious
Another problem connected to the legal question of driving when being prescribed marijuana is the number of other medications that the user is also consuming. Alcohol in combination with marijuana can be very problematic when determining impairment.
In addition, many individuals who are prescribed marijuana are often also prescribed various narcotics and antidepressants that are taken daily along with marijuana. This can be deadly when done without concern for the totality of chemical concentrations in the body.
The short answer to the question is that it may be okay to drive after smoking marijuana in some instances, if the user has waited a significant amount of time before driving after use. It is always important to retain an experienced criminal defense or DUI attorney to defend an impairment charge that is based on THC levels or officer observation, as this is still a grey area of the law that could potentially be settled with a charge reduction or dismissal.