As of January 1, recreational marijuana is now legal to purchase, possess and smoke in the state of Illinois. There are plenty of regulations that come with its legalization, as you can’t just smoke anywhere or buy from anyone, but the most notable is how the state handles driving under the influence of marijuana. Below, we take a closer look at how Illinois views driving under the influence of marijuana, and we explore the regulations so you don’t end up in handcuffs.
Can I Drive After Smoking Marijuana?
Marijuana has been linked to drowsiness and delayed reaction times among other things, so for those reasons and more, the state has made it illegal for anyone to get behind the wheel while under the influence of marijuana. It is legal to ride in a vehicle under the influence of marijuana as a passenger, but the state has made it illegal to smoke marijuana while riding in a vehicle, even if it’s your car or a friend’s vehicle.
The law specifically states that “a driver may not operate a motor vehicle while impaired by the use of cannabis, whether used medically or recreationally,” and recreational marijuana may only be transported in odor-proof and child resistant containers. We’ll touch on citations for possession violations in a future blog, but for today, we’re going to focus on driving under the influence.
If an officer stops a driver and has reasonable suspicion to believe that the driver is under the influence of cannabis, they can ask the driver to submit to field sobriety tests or roadside chemical tests. You are within your rights to refuse these tests, but it’s worth noting that refusal itself is a crime, and doing so will result in the suspension of your driver’s license. That doesn’t mean you should always comply, but just be aware that refusal is a crime in itself.
Things get a little murky from here on in. Since there isn’t really a roadside test for determining if a person is under the influence of marijuana, an officer will usually make that decision based on your field sobriety tests and your physical symptoms. If you have trouble following the officer’s finger with your eyes, you have a delayed response time to questions and your eyes are bloodshot, they may place you under arrest. However, they don’t really have any hard evidence that you are under the influence of marijuana. Those same symptoms could apply to a factory worker who just finished a 12-hour shift, so they are going to try to collect more evidence to solidify their case.
After Your Arrest
You’ll be arrested and taken to the police station where you’ll more than likely be asked to submit to chemical testing of your breath, blood, urine or other bodily substance within two hours of being pulled over. A blood test can only be performed by a medical professional, but police have been granted the ability to collect breath, urine and other bodily substance tests. If you test comes back positive for more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood or for more than 10 nanograms per milliliter of another bodily substance, your driver’s license will be revoked and you’ll face criminal charges.
So now you’re probably wondering how fast THC makes its way through a person’s system. Not surprisingly, the answer to that question varies wildly. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a frequent marijuana user can have more than 100 nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood just after smoking, and their levels can remain above the 5 nanogram legal level long after their impairment has faded. In fact, THC can remain in a person’s body for weeks or months after use. NORML believes it could take weeks to decline below the level of detection. Simply put, the science hasn’t yet caught up with the law.
We’ve entered uncharted territory when it comes to legalized marijuana and how the state tries to prosecute users for driving under the influence of marijuana. Anyone who is charged with driving under the influence of marijuana should consider challenging the arrest because the evidence is still up for debate and much of it can be challenged successfully by a seasoned lawyer. If you need help with your marijuana DUI, reach out to the experienced lawyers at Appelman & Lloyd today.