Since the legalization of recreational marijuana, the state of Washington has seen a sharp uptick in arrests for marijuana DUIs. In 2012, the Washington State Patrol’s toxicology laboratory verified 988 THC-positive results from drivers suspected of DUI; then, in the year following the passage of legalization, that number jumped to 1362. This has led to a corresponding increase in marijuana DUI cases for defense attorneys throughout the state.
The increase in pot DUI arrests provides fuel to marijuana prohibitionists to support their stance, but the reality is this does not prove one way or the other that there are more impaired drivers on the roads. When Washington Initiative 502 passed, one of the provisions stated that the new law would set a THC limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. This is a relatively low threshold, particularly for users of medical cannabis who develop a high tolerance for THC and can function normally at much higher levels.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the new 5 nanogram per milliliter per se impairment standard, considering THC affects the user in much different ways than alcohol. Many believe that it makes sense to have an established threshold for one’s blood alcohol concentration but not for marijuana due to the fact that marijuana users can develop a tolerance for the drug and can operate safely at various levels. Many are also understandably concerned that one with a prescription for medical cannabis will be wrongly convicted of marijuana DUI simply for being over the limit, which is extremely low and unrealistic for these particular users.
By having a concrete threshold, Washington police are no longer required to rely on their judgement for whether or not a driver is actually impaired simply based on the driver’s actions. Before the new standard, an officer would determine whether a driver was impaired by observing the driver, ruling out alcohol, and finding THC in the driver’s system. He would then have to prove to the court that the driver was in fact a threat based on the driver’s actions. Today, if there is reasonable cause to believe a driver is under the influence, once alcohol is ruled out, that driver is subject to a blood draw. If the results come back positive, and show a concentration of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood or higher, the driver is automatically charged with DUI. The result of the test is typically used as evidence and actual impairment is rarely considered.
Without a strong marijuana DUI attorney, you could face harsh consequences if you have been arrested. Attorney Daniel J. Murphy, Jr. of Murphy’s Law Offices specializes in marijuana DUI defense in Washington, serving King and Pierce counties. Consult with him by calling (253) 312-6122 at any time to begin constructing a strong DUI defense.