Possessing marijuana is now legal in small quantities across California, for both medical and recreational use. Many people use and enjoy marijuana safely, and using it is increasingly socially acceptable. All of these are good things, and they have made marijuana one of the most popular drugs available.
Just like alcohol, however, marijuana is considered to have effects that impair your ability to drive. That means that driving under the influence of marijuana is a criminal offense, even though possessing or using marijuana is legal. The result is a complicated situation where many marijuana users think they are “safe” and obeying the law, and are shocked when they get pulled over and arrested for DUI.
What are the effects of marijuana?
We’re all familiar with the pleasant, giddy sensation that marijuana creates. But this is not the only effect it has on the body or the brain. The main documented effects of marijuana include:
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Increased appetite
- Changes in mood (which can vary from person to person)
- An altered sense of the passage of time
Not every marijuana user experiences all of these effects. Some may feel drowsy while others feel happy and energetic. Some may experience positive mood changes and a release of anxiety, while others do not. Nonetheless, the potential for these effects is well known, and they have an impact on behavior and driving ability. Drowsiness and difficulty with concentration are, in particular, considered dangerous behind the wheel. But two different people can get different effects from the same amount of marijuana. Simply taking the drug does not necessarily mean you are impaired.
What counts as “impaired” for a marijuana DUI?
Under the law, a drug can be considered to impair driving if it affects the brain, the nervous system or the muscles. Marijuana doesn’t really affect the muscles, but it does affect the brain and nervous system. Therefore, it can be considered to impair you.
But the prosecutor still has to prove their case. Unlike an alcohol DUI, there is no easy test to give you to determine how high you are. Police will likely give you a blood or urine test, but that doesn’t prove you were impaired. Instead, the prosecutor will rely on:
- How much marijuana you used
- How recently you used it before driving
- Any errors you made while driving, such as crossing the centerline or turning too wide
- Your behavior and how well you did on field sobriety tests
This is the key to winning your marijuana DUI case. Your lawyer will work to show that you were not impaired, even though you had marijuana in your system. A good lawyer will work to discredit the field sobriety tests and challenge the medical basis for assuming you were impaired based solely on the amount of marijuana you used. In many cases, this is enough to get the charge dropped or reduced.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 896-2724 and get your free consultation today.