Marijuana DUI: 1 Dead, 1 Arrested in WA

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on December 19, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When DUIs hit the news, the cause is often alcohol. But a marijuana DUI can be just as deadly.

Just 11 days after Washington state's new pot law went into effect, police on Monday responded to an accident in which a driver had hit a pedestrian. The victim, an unidentified man in his 50s, was walking across the street with some groceries. The man allegedly stepped out into traffic, which may put him at fault.

The driver, 47-year-old Scotty Rowles, cooperated with the investigation. But by the end of the interview, police had enough reason to suspect he was under the influence of marijuana, so they arrested him.

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, but the law generally doesn't restrict what intoxicating substances can lead to that charge.

Alcohol is probably the most common cause of a DUI charge, but anything that impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle can bring about a DUI arrest. That includes prescription pain killers, muscle relaxers, and illegal drugs.

If what's causing the impairment is also an illegal substance, the driver could potentially face an additional problem: criminal drug charges on top of the DUI.

But that's not what happened to Rowles, according to Portland, Oregon's KGW-TV.

The alleged marijuana DUI accident happened across the river from Portland in Vancouver, Washington, where the possession of marijuana recently became legal under state law. Whatever other charges Rowles faces, criminal drug possession is not one of them.

But Washington's new pot law prohibits driving under the influence of marijuana. The state has even set a drugged driving limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

It's unclear whether Rowles will also be charged with vehicular homicide in the man's death, since it's believed the man stepped out into traffic, reports Portland's KPTV. Rowles may want to get a good DUI attorney on his side.

This is reportedly the first marijuana-related DUI case in Washington since the drug was made legal under state law Dec. 6. (Marijuana, of course, remains illegal under federal law.) How police will deal with these kinds of DUIs has been the subject of public policy debate for months.

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