Marijuana DUI Laws Washington State
The new law, which takes effect December 1, 2012, allows people in the state of Washington to possess up to 1oz of marijuana for personal use. In addition, the new law set a “per se” or maximum threshold THC level that drivers cannot have in their systems, or be above, while driving.
Washington's Legal Limit For Marijuana
Before the passing of I-502 legalizing marijuana, the State had a zero-tolerance policy for all drivers who would drive under the influence of marijuana’s active ingredient, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which some believe impairs driving ability. Prior to the law’s effective date of December 1, 2013, any level of the active ingredient of marijuana in a driver’s blood is prohibited. However, after the law has taken effect, drivers under the age of twenty-one will still be prohibited from having any active THC in their blood.
In contrast, drivers 21 or older will be permitted a very low amount of the active THC in their blood—up to 5 ng (nanograms) per milliliter of blood. Thus, it will be illegal for adults to drive with a blood level of 5 ng or more.
There is much controversy over whether any particular driver will be impaired at 5 ng delta-9 THC. Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published materials that cast doubt upon the fairness of establishing a bright line “per se” level of impairment. In their 2004 publication Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets they the authors state that it is “difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and [driving] performance impairing effects. . . .[c]oncentrations of the parent drug [marijuana] and the metabolite [delta-9 THC] are very dependent on patterns of use as well as dose.” Thus they conclude “[i]t is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH [inactive THC metabolite] concentrations.” The reason for this is that people become tolerant to any drug, including THC, after time. Thus, they may have a seemingly high level of THC in their blood but not be impaired to drive. In fact, in1983, NHTSA published Marijuana and Actual Driving Performance where they concluded, “THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small.”
Thus, while there will be a per se level beginning December 1, 2013, everyone reacts to marijuana differently, and some may not be impaired at 5 ng/ml. According to the law, there is a presumption of impairment if the driver is at or above 5 ng. However, the prosecution must always prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and if the driver in question did not drive in an impaired manner, the jury can reject the presumption and find the driver not guilty.
Under 5ng/ml And The “Affected By” Element Of Marijuana DUI
It is a common mistake to believe that if you are under a 0.08 Breath or Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), or under the new 5 ng/ml of THC, you can not be convicted of a DUI. This is wrong. The 0.08 and 5 ng/ml limits allow but do not require the jury to presume you are impaired at those levels or higher, regardless of whether the driver was actually impaired. But even when a driver is under those limits, they may still be convicted of a DUI under the “affected by” element if the prosecutor can prove that less than 5ng of THC caused the driver’s ability to drive to be impaired to any appreciable degree. This means that if you are in an accident or driving badly, you may still be convicted of a DUI, even when under the limit, because the jury may conclude that even a negligible amount of THC impaired your driving.
If you have been arrested for DUI-marijuana, the highly trained and successful lawyers at Callahan Law will bring their know-how and aggressively defend you. Call us at 877-384-2679, that’s 877-DUI Answer.
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