How Pot DUIs Are Handled In California

Medical marijuana has been available in California since 1996, and more recently, recreational marijuana use became legal in the state in 2018. Recreational cannabis has been legal in other states, like Washington and Colorado, since 2012. Despite this, few states have a recognized consensus of what makes someone who is under the influence of marijuana a DUI. Some states have “per se” laws which make it illegal to have a specific amount of marijuana in a person’s system and drive. However, California relies mostly on visual cues to determine if a suspect should be charged with DUI-drug. The Ventura County Star reports on how law enforcement officers recognize and deal with DUI marijuana.

In every state in America, DUI alcohol limits are set at .08% and in some cases, lower. However, no such limit exists for marijuana.

Law enforcement agencies in California rely on a 12-step process to determine possible cannabis intoxication for a driver.

If an officer suspects marijuana impairment, the suspect is transported to a specialist to perform a 12-step evaluation. The evaluation can include a breath test, an interview with the suspecting officer, an eye exam, a divided-attention test, a check of vital signs, a low-light eye exam, a physical examination of muscle tone, and a check for possible injection sites.

Another step is a drug-recognition expert giving an opinion on whether a suspect is intoxicated, and a recommendation on whether charges should be filed.

The final step is a toxicology report, which may not be completed until several weeks after the arrest.

One of the problems with this set of testing is that they are generally holistic and may allow officers to be compromised by unconscious biases and stereotypes, according to some defense attorneys.

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