Washington State’s Stoned Driving Initiative Ripe for Abuse

Washington State has experienced an increase in Marijuana driving arrests since the substance was legalized for recreational use. However, recreational-use marijuana dispensaries will not open their doors in Washington State until sometime next year.

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Our marijuana defense lawyers are aware that the changing legal landscape surrounding marijuana legislation might create a great deal of confusion.

The state’s new “stoned driving” initiative is wrongly encouraging law enforcement officers to pull over far higher numbers of drivers based on the suspicion that they are under the influence of marijuana.

Unfortunately zero tolerance policies toward drivers under the age of 21 make all teenagers an easy target for arrest hungry police officers and end up disproportionately affecting kids of color.

According to a report on CBSnews.com, the instant marijuana was legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, law enforcement officials began a pronounced effort to seek out more impaired drivers than ever before.

Patrol spokesman explain that drugged driving is still illegal regardless of the legality of possessing the underlying substance.

Marijuana activists agree that you should not smoke and drive but setting a standard limit for THC impairment is more complicated than setting a blood alcohol content level.

There are no portable breath tests for marijuana like there are for alcohol and there is no readily available way to tell if someone is impaired by recent marijuana use.

Although there are tests which reveal whether marijuana has been used in the past the tests for current effects of the substance are difficult. The current standard in many states involves drawing blood from a suspected impaired driver and testing for THC (the active ingredient in marijuana).

Individuals are considered in violation of law when they have over 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Some states have lower standards such as 2 nanograms per milliliter.

Due to the complexity of assessing drug impairment many drugged driving arrests and convictions are based on police observations.

Supporters of Washington’s measures to prevent drugged driving insist that the standards are necessary to achieve the goal of safer roads.

However, the standards are arbitrarily strict. In some instances an individual who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes with a license could be convicted even though they are not impaired at the time of the test.

In addition, the harshness of taking college loans away from individuals who are convicted of driving while impaired could have a significant negative impact on many young people.

Many who are opposed to the enforcement measures surround impaired marijuana driving feel that alcohol and marijuana are too dissimilar to be treated the same way.

There is well-established science around blood alcohol content and its affects on the body but the same is not entirely true for the effects of marijuana.

The CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Washington State to Begin Accepting Marijuana Retailer Applications in November, Oct. 16, 2013, By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
More Blog Entries:

The Feds Backtrack on Marijuana Policy: Planned “Enforcement Actions” in Colorado, Nov 28, 2013, Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Lawyer Blog
U.S. Attorney General: It’s Time for Drug Sentencing Reform, Aug. 15, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog