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What to Know about Medical Marijuana Use and Driving in Washington

Medical marijuana has proved helpful to treat a variety of conditions. From helping patients battling cancer experience fewer side effects from chemotherapy, to helping ease chronic pain and muscle spasms, patients throughout the country are receiving medicinal cannabis as a further option for treatment. Along with Alaska and Oregon, Washington State first passed laws permitting medical marijuana use in 1998. Today, medicinal and recreational marijuana are widely used in the Evergreen State. If you have a prescription for medical marijuana in Washington, you may be unaware of how your prescription relates to state driving laws.

Prescription Marijuana Use and Driving

There is no state in the US that permits drivers to be under the influence of a substance, whether it be alcohol, marijuana, hard drugs or prescription medications. Washington State police make no distinction between medicinal cannabis or recreational weed when they arrest drivers they suspect are under the influence. Whether you are using marijuana to treat an illness or for personal enjoyment, the drug has an effect on motor skills.

You should think about medical marijuana like any other prescription drug. Many medications come with a warning against operating a car or heavy machinery, and this can be applied to your prescription marijuana. In Washington, impairment is impairment regardless of the purpose.

Washington’s Marijuana Threshold

With that stated, it’s important to know about Washington’s strict DUI thresholds that were initiated along with the legalization of recreational weed. To help push hesitant voters toward the side of legalization, it is now illegal for an adult to contain 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in his blood. This is considered a dangerously low threshold for patients of medical marijuana, who develop a high tolerance with repeated use.

Many patients using medical marijuana contain much higher levels of THC. Experts argue the threshold is unrealistic and harmful, because unlike alcohol, marijuana users develop a tolerance and function normally with varying levels of THC depending on their personal tolerance.

In the past, police officers would arrest DUI suspects whom they suspected were under the influence of pot based on observable behaviors but with this new law, all it takes is for a blood test to show that your blood contained 5 nanograms/ milliliter of THC to “prove” you were impaired. This presents a dangerous obstacle for medical marijuana users considering THC stays in your system even after you have just used it.

If you are facing DUI charges in Washington for using marijuana, an experienced medical marijuana DUI attorney may be able to have your charges dropped or reduced. Daniel J. Murphy, Jr. of Murphy’s Law Offices practices marijuana DUI litigation in Washington with a strong reputation among clients and peers. Call (253) 312-6122 for a complimentary and confidential consultation.

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