Now that pot is legal, what happens to California's DUI laws?

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This article looks at what marijuana legalization in California means for drugged driving laws.

Voters in California recently voted to make recreational marijuana legal in the state. While that move shows just how much society has evolved in recent years concerning marijuana consumption, it also leads to an issue that is becoming increasingly challenging both for lawmakers and private citizens: how legal marijuana affects DUI laws. While the recent legalization of marijuana does not change the state's drug DUI laws, it does make them far more relevant to many more people. While many people may assume that drugged driving is similar to drunk driving, researchers are showing why that is not the case.

Drug DUI laws

Driving while under the influence of drugs is illegal in California and the fact that the state has legalized marijuana use does not change that. If a drug, including marijuana, impairs one's ability to drive then that person can be charged with driving under the influence.

However, determining whether an individual is impaired by drugs is difficult. In California, the evidence against such individuals often relies on a field sobriety test and the testimony of police officers at the scene. Such evidence is highly subjective, opening up the possibility that people who are not actually impaired by drugs could nonetheless be charged with driving under the influence.

The problem with tests

Many people may assume that a solution to this problem is to simply test for marijuana in a driver's blood system, much as police already test for alcohol. As CNBC notes, many states have already taken this route, notably Colorado. However, there is a major problem with testing for marijuana, which is that marijuana behaves differently in the body than alcohol does.

As MarketWatch points out, unlike alcohol, the level of marijuana in a person's body is not a good indicator for how impaired that person is. For one, an experienced marijuana user could have a high level of THC (the active component in marijuana) in his or her body, but be relatively unimpaired. That same level of THC in an inexperienced user, on the other hand, could leave him or her very impaired. Furthermore, THC can remain in a person's body for days and even weeks after they last consumed marijuana, meaning they could potentially fail a marijuana test despite not being impaired by pot.

Blood analysis does provide some information which can be relevant to usage and impairment, but there can also be a number of issues with correlation to impairment. THC concentrations, its active and inactive metabolites, can be detected in blood and vary depending on usage and dosage patterns.

Drug DUI laws

As California's drug laws continue to change, it is important for people who are facing impaired driving charges related to drugs to get legal help right away. As the above article shows, people who have been charged with a drug DUI may have a credible way to fight back against such charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist anybody who is facing a DUI charge.

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