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Risks of a Marijuana DUI

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on February 24, 2020

On December 6, 2012, Washington became one of the first states to make recreational marijuana legal. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Organization (SAMHSA), reports that about 20 percent of Washington residents use marijuana or have in the past – about one out of every five people. With such a high rate of consumption, it’s no wonder that driving while high has become one of the leading causes of fatal and near-fatal accidents in the state.

Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.”

The NIDA further reports that “Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones.” In other words, driving while high is extremely dangerous and puts your life, your passenger’s lives, and the lives of others at risk.

What Are the Penalties for Driving While High?

In the state of Washington, it is illegal to drive with five ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) of THC in your blood if your over 21, and it is illegal to drive with any THC in your blood if you’re under 21. The penalties for driving while under the influence of marijuana can include any or all of the following:

  • Anywhere from one to 364 days in prison
  • A fine up to $5,000
  • A minimum 90-day driver’s license suspension
  • A minimum of a one-year required use of an ignition interlock device
  • Two to five years of probation

If an accident occurs as a result of driving while under the influence, and especially if another person dies, the penalties imposed will be far more severe, and you could be facing charges for additional crimes.

How Police Check for Marijuana

If you’re pulled over for any form of reckless driving, including speeding, and the police smell marijuana or notice it in your vehicle, they can charge you with a DUI. Blood tests are not considered conclusive since THC remains in your system long after a “high,” so the observation and evaluation of law enforcement plays an important role in facing charges. If you are legally transporting marijuana and you are not under the influence, keep it in an airtight container in your trunk or glove compartment as a precaution.

In a car accident, if you are under the influence of marijuana and found to be responsible for injuries or death, you are facing serious legal consequences. At the end of the day, combining marijuana and driving is a very bad idea. If you want to consume marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, make sure you have transportation arranged – don’t take the risk of getting behind the wheel.

How Long Do I Have to Wait After Consuming Marijuana before I Can Safely Drive?

According to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, you should wait a minimum of five hours after consuming marijuana before operating a motor vehicle, and longer if you consumed in an edible (as it lasts longer your body). If you believe you may be impaired – just wait or arrange another form of transportation. Don’t risk your life or the lives of others by driving impaired. Safe driving requires being alert, a fast reaction time, and driving while your senses are dulled by marijuana is dangerous – and if an accident occurs, you are at risk of facing imprisonment, fines, and driver’s license suspension.

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