Illinois recently became the 17th state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, meaning that individuals caught with pot will be subjected to a citation and fine rather than a criminal offense. Cops will now be able to issue tickets for between $100 and $200 to anyone caught carrying a small amount of marijuana, and you won’t end up with a criminal record.
Amy Campanelli, head of the Cook County Public Defender’s office, said she’s pleased that Illinois has moved forward with the decriminalization of marijuana, because under the old system, many people were plagued by a marijuana possession charge for years to come.
“These arrests are stopping people from getting jobs and getting school loans,” Campanelli says. “It stops opportunity.”
So while some are happy that marijuana possession is decriminalized, others were wondering how the state would handle DUI cases where the driver was under the influence of marijuana. Under the old law the state could bring charges against anyone who had even trace amounts of marijuana in their system, meaning people who had smoked weeks ago could test positive and face heavy charges and steep fines. In an effort to amend the marijuana DUI law to ensure only individuals who are under the influence at the time of the traffic stop are subjected to charges, Illinois re-categorized what it defines as “driving under the influence of marijuana.”
New Marijuana DUI Measurements
Under the new law, a person is considered under the influence of marijuana if:
- Drivers have five or more nanograms of THC in their blood; or
- Drivers have ten or more nanograms of THC in their saliva.
So while the new measurements mean people aren’t unjustly hit with a DUI for smoking a joint a few weeks ago, it still leaves some questions to be answered. For example, will you be over the legal driving limit if you take a hit from a pipe or have a pull from a bong, or does it take a whole joint to put someone over the limit?
Similar to driving under the influence of alcohol, the answer varies based on a number of different factors, including the person’s size, weight, how long ago they smoked and the potency of the marijuana they smoked. We can’t sit here and say that if you wait two hours after smoking to drive, you’ll be under the legal limit, because there is not clear cut answer. It’s probably safe to wait a few hours, and if you can tell that you are still feeling the effects of weed, be smart and don’t get behind the wheel. Because even though there are questions as to how Illinois police will be able to effectively test a person’s blood and saliva to determine THC levels, a judge and jury isn’t going to give you the benefit of the doubt if you get in an accident and hurt someone.
In the event that you get pulled over and are asked to take a breathalyzer to determine if you are under the influence of weed, remember that you always have the option to refuse unless the officer has a warrant. A refusal will likely lead to a license suspension, but without clear evidence that you are under the influence, it will be tough for the state to make their case against you. Consulting with an attorney is also key at this point, as they can give you advice based on your exact situation to help you out of a jam.