It is still unlawful in California to be under the influence of marijuana and operate a motor vehicle, even though medical marijuana has been legal for many years and limited recreational marijuana was legalized in November of 2016. DUI laws are not concerned with whether or not the marijuana is recreational or medical when used while driving. Just because you have a prescription and were under the influence doesn’t mean that you cannot receive a DUI charge.
It is important to remember that consulting with a legal professional can be invaluable when a substance that is semi-legalized is in question. Laws surrounding marijuana do tend to be modified somewhat frequently and they typically are filled with complex regulations, exceptions, and rules.
It is becoming a standard practice during investigations for marijuana DUI to consult with a drug recognition expert, or a drug recognition evaluator (DRE). These officers have taken specialized training that determines (1) impairment; (2) if a medical condition or drugs caused the impairment; and (3) if drugs caused the impairment, what class of drug it is.
DRE protocol is a collection of tests that doctors have relied on for decades to evaluate drug- and alcohol-induced impairment. The evaluation takes place either directly at the scene or afterward at the police station. Ultimately, these tests depend on the officer’s accuracy, training, and experience but are based on 12 factors.
Normally, the DRE will suggest that the driver takes a blood, saliva, and/or urine test for lab analysis. This can act as an additional confirmation of impairment.
DUI and California’s Legal Marijuana Laws
In regards to DUI law, the fact that California has legalized marijuana does not matter. Adults over 18 can own, ingest, and grow it, but they can’t legally drive afterward.
California’s laws dictate that it’s illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any kind of substance that impacts the nervous system, brain, and/or muscles. Marijuana use has been demonstrated to impair a safe and reasonable driving ability, which can endanger other people.
New – Legal Medical Marijuana and DUI
As California has legalized the use of recreational marijuana, some people may be wrongly anticipating restrictions on driving after marijuana use to be relaxed also. This is a false assumption.
DUI laws do not change regardless of whether you are using medical marijuana or recreational marijuana. The California marijuana DUI law is highly preventive, so a driver can still receive DUI charges with a valid prescription.
Since marijuana can impair the ability of a driver to safely operate their car, it would violate California’s DUI law to drive while medicated.