5795308202_0afb625ac2_zDriving under the influence usually brings to mind intoxicated people trying to drive themselves home from the bar after a few too many drinks. As marijuana becomes more socially acceptable and an increasing number of states legalize the drug for recreational and/or medical use, however, the perception of this term is broadening to include those who are under the influence of marijuana behind the wheel.

Marijuana Laws

Most would automatically assume that marijuana is detrimental to someone’s ability to drive, but there are many studies that conflict with this assumption. Many other studies reaffirm concerns that marijuana can result in potentially fatal consequences on the road.

  • It has been suggested by researchers that individuals driving under the influence of marijuana may compensate for their impaired state by becoming especially attentive at the wheel.
  • This contrasts with drunk drivers, who often underestimate their level of intoxication and engage in reckless behavior fueled by poor judgment.
  • Regardless, even if a driver under the influence of marijuana focuses all of his or her attention to the matter at hand, it has been proven that reaction times are compromised by marijuana intoxication.
  • A driver’s reaction to the sudden appearance of a pedestrian in front of the vehicle may be too slow, resulting in a possibly fatal incident.
  • In addition, a marijuana-impaired mind is likely more susceptible to distractions that unexpectedly arise.

Pro-Marijuana Arguments

Despite the compendium of suspected risks associated with the choice to drive after marijuana consumption, there are still many who choose to operate a vehicle after taking a hit from the bong. Pro-marijuana activists assert that there is no harm in driving after smoking marijuana, but it is generally accepted that sober driving is the wisest course of action; even stimulants, which can improve mental acuity, have the potential to disrupt the faculties of a driver to the point where risk to life becomes a statistical probability.

Although the severity of intoxication between alcohol and marijuana when it comes to driving may be in dispute, the law is quite clear on the issue.

  • Driving under the influence of marijuana is a criminal offense, and police will arrest those suspected of being behind the wheel after indulging in a joint.
  • However, unlike alcohol, marijuana intoxication is not as easily detected.
  • There is no standard field test that police can employ as of yet that is considered to be as reliable as the well-known breathalyzer so dreaded by the drunk driver.

Saliva tests are being employed by police in locales within California, but the efficacy of these tests is questioned by many.

  • Since marijuana can remain in the system for up to a month after usage, those charged with a marijuana D.U.I on the basis of a saliva test may find it relatively easy to dismiss it in court.
  • In contrast with a breathalyzer – which establishes the immediate alcohol content of an individual in the field – a saliva test merely indicates traces of marijuana in a person and gives no solid indication as to whether or not the individual is presently intoxicated.
  • Thus, field sobriety tests – which can be inconclusive as well – are mostly relied on by police when determining whether a driver is under the influence or not.

Thanks to the lack of a universal device reliably capable of testing drivers for marijuana intoxication on the spot, drivers under the influence of marijuana have more protection than those that have imbibed in alcohol. As the legal status of marijuana continues to shift across the nation, however, this protection may erode as new methods of testing arise.

Considering the potential consequences of driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance, driving while sober remains the recommended course of action for anyone wishing to protect the lives of others while ensuring the continuation of their own.


The following two tabs change content below.

Scott Desind

Scott Desind | Traffic Ticket Attorneys The Traffic Ticket Attorneys, Desind and Klijian, have over 25 years of experience fighting traffic tickets. Our attorneys are well respected and known for their experience in fighting traffic tickets, specialized knowledge of the law and procedures and results by the court personnel, officers, deputies, competitors and clients.