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Marijuana and DUI’s in California

Changes to California’s marijuana laws have been making headlines. As of January 1st, 2018, Proposition 64 came into effect, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for individuals over 21 years of age. Under the new law, it will be legal to possess and transport up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow up to 6 pot plants in one’s home.

While the new law is being celebrated by many, it is important to remember that it is still possible to get into trouble for using marijuana irresponsibly. One of the most significant aspects to remember is that driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal.

DUI’s for marijuana

Driving under the influence of any drug is illegal in California. The legality of recreational marijuana makes DUI’s for marijuana use similar to that of alcohol. Just like you can drink an alcoholic beverage and not violate any laws, you can smoke marijuana and be in compliance with the state drug laws. But do either of those things and then step behind the wheel and you are risking a DUI. Of course, there are differences between DUI’s for alcohol and DUI’s for marijuana. For one thing, you might be wondering when you would be considered to be under the influence for marijuana for the purposes of a DUI since most of us know that driving after consuming a very small amount of alcohol typically will not lead to a DUI because it will not result in a chemical test result (like a breathalyzer) of more than .08% BAC.

How is marijuana consumption measured for DUI’s?

Measuring marijuana usage for the purpose of determining impaired driving ability is extremely difficult. Marijuana does not enter or leave the body in a way that is as predictable as alcohol. Using marijuana in the past can leave evidence of the drug long after any impairment has ended, and sometimes the amount that shows up on a test might not seem that large even when a person is impaired.

There is not currently an amount of the drug that makes or breaks a marijuana DUI in California. Instead, it must be shown that you were impaired and that some part of the impairment is the result of drug consumption. Hence, it is possible for someone who drove erratically to be found guilty of a DUI if it is believed that marijuana contributed in any way to the bad driving.

Consequences of a Marijuana DUI

The consequences of a DUI for marijuana are the same as those for alcohol-related DUI’s. Even a first-time offense can result in a suspension of your driver’s license, limited jail time, and fines. Repeat offenses, which include a second offense at any time within ten years from the first, will result in longer suspensions, jail time and fines.

Open container laws for marijuana

With Proposition 64 going into effect, so come laws restricting the use of marijuana in a motor vehicle. It is now illegal to operate a vehicle while using marijuana, and also to ride in a vehicle while using marijuana. Consuming edibles while riding in or operating a motor vehicle is also specifically prohibited.

At Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, we are ready to stand up for your rights. Contact us today at 909-798-3300 for a free consultation with one of our DUI law attorneys.


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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.