In the past, marijuana DUI testing was simple. Because marijuana was illegal everywhere, even a small trace of it in your system could get you a marijuana DUI. However, marijuana DUI testing isn’t as easy as it used to be. With medical marijuana legal in many places, you can have a trace amount of marijuana in your system. Now, marijuana is more like alcohol in that you need to test for a certain amount of marijuana in your system. But marijuana DUI testing isn’t yet perfect. Science still has some work to do.
The Problem with Marijuana DUI Testing
Testing for marijuana is very different from testing for alcohol. While alcohol stays in your blood, marijuana works in your brain. Breathalyzers and blood tests won’t tell a police officer how high you are. To remedy this, scientists are looking for a reliable marijuana DUI test. But the search for a reliable test has been a difficult one.
Part of the problem is the lack of agreement. Before scientists can find a reliable protocol, they need to agree on how to measure impairment. For alcohol, the legal limit is usually .08% or higher. Marijuana needs a similar value. However, there’s much debate over that value. At what concentration does marijuana impair a driver? Until they can agree on an answer to that question, they can’t come up with a solution.
One of the major obstacles is the way you can take marijuana. Smoking and ingesting marijuana have very different effects on the body. The amount of time it takes to affect you varies, as does the impairment you face. It’s difficult to come up with a general rule for impairment when the way you take it can have such varying effects.
In the past, labs used urine testing to look for one specific ingredient of marijuana – carboxy THC. Carboxy THC is found in the largest quantity in marijuana, so labs decided that it was the easiest to search for. However, evidence suggests that carboxy THC does not demonstrate impairment. In fact, it only indicates past marijuana use. It can stay in your system for as long as a month. When you’re trying to determine the level of impairment of a driver, carboxy THC isn’t much use. Although carboxy THC isn’t much use for marijuana DUI testing, there are other options. Other metabolites of THC might be better measures of impairment.
There’s also a THC blood test that shows presumed impairment. However, it is only a presumption. It measures the amount of delta-9-THC in one millimeter of blood. In Colorado, a court can infer that you drove impaired if you have a value over five nanograms. But that value is not always a sign of impairment. It’s an inaccurate measure.
In Denver, marijuana legalization has come with many results – some good, and some bad. One of those results is an increase in driver fatalities with a positive marijuana DUI testing result. Although there aren’t many fatalities due to marijuana use, the number of fatalities is rising quickly.
Lawmakers want to come up with a way to limit those fatalities. They need a way to handle marijuana DUIs, and they need it fast. If they can define impaired and provide consequences for driving impaired, they may be able to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities.
And the problem isn’t only in Denver. Many other states are looking for a way to deal with a marijuana DUI. However, some people doubt the link between marijuana and car accidents. One 2015 study showed that marijuana users had the same likelihood of crashing as sober drivers. Yet, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission believes that marijuana increases your likelihood of being in a fatal crash.
The issue may not be marijuana alone, but the combination of marijuana and alcohol. In Colorado in 2016, about 36% of drivers in fatal car accidents who tested positive for marijuana also had alcohol in their system.
Whether marijuana makes you more vulnerable for driving isn’t the issue. The issue is coming up with a test for determining impairment in a driver who has had marijuana. Without it, there’s no way of knowing whether an individual is guilty of a marijuana DUI.
With the legalization of marijuana, there are some questions about how to handle a marijuana DUI. There’s no accurate test for it, and that makes it difficult to punish. With the current testing options, a court may consider someone impaired when they are not impaired. Before the court can punish someone for a marijuana DUI, there needs to be a way to accurately measure impairment.
Facing a DUI charge is a scary thing. If you find yourself facing a marijuana DUI charge, you need help. A lawyer with experience might be able to help you. Without marijuana DUI testing for impairment, the court may have a hard time proving that you are guilty.