Medical Pot Patients Fear WA's Marijuana DUI Law

By Andrew Lu on December 05, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Recreational marijuana use is now legal in Washington state. Ironically, this may be bad news for the state's medical pot users, as they may be more susceptible to marijuana-related DUIs.

The ballot initiative that made it legal to smoke marijuana recreationally in the state also contained a new DUI standard for drugged driving, reports NPR.

So while the new law makes it legal for adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, these same adults can now be busted for driving under the influence if they have a certain blood level of THC -- the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

For drugged drivers 21 and over, Washington state's limit is now 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. For drivers under 21, there's a zero-tolerance policy.

This may be bad news for medical marijuana patients, because THC can take weeks to dispel from one's body, especially for patients who've been using pot for a while.

When the Washington marijuana ballot initiative went before voters, it was actually medicinal marijuana users who voiced some of the loudest opposition. And it was this new DUI standard that many medicinal marijuana users feared.

So should all medicinal pot patients now hire a driver, or simply not drive at all?

The answer is not clear. Even before the initiative passed, it was illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. There just wasn't a specific standard like there is now, reports NPR. So the only difference is that drivers now have to think in terms of nanograms per milliliter instead of simply being "under the influence" while driving.

The Washington State Patrol is offering some solace. A spokesman told NPR that troopers won't be pulling people over randomly and administering drug tests. In other words, if you're not driving erratically and not under the influence, you probably won't be stopped by cops.

However, the words of a state trooper will probably be of little value if you are indeed pulled over and charged with a marijuana-related DUI. If that happens, you'll want to have a good DUI attorney on speed dial so he can start working on your defense.

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