After hearing about a close friend who was involved in an accident due to marijuana intoxication, I got thinking about the reality of living in a Britain with legal cannabis.
One of my first worries was, how will law enforcement deal with those driving under the influence of cannabis? Essentially, how high is too high to drive?
Countries like the USA provide fertile ground for exploring such questions with real life implications. You’d be wrong to think that driving while medicated is legal in the 30 states that have legalised marijuana for medical purposes. Even in these ‘pro-cannabis’ states there are rules and laws in place. All prescription drugs, including cannabis, are regulated in some way to keep motorists safe.
But with so many new and different types of prescription medication available, how could we expect the authorities to invoke fair justice on this matter? With the common DUI or ‘Driving Under the Influence’ (of Alcohol), the judgment is easy. If your BAC or ‘Blood alcohol content’ is higher than the relevant legal limit you will face charges. That simple.
Alcohol, which is a water-based compound, is flushed out of the body relatively quickly and easily. But cannabis is fat-soluble and can stay within the fat cells of the body long after the intoxicating effect has ended. In fact marijuana can remain in the system for months in one form or another without any impairing effects. You can see what a minefield this is.
Currently the US is struggling to implement a unified form of sobriety testing, with many states lacking any form of roadside THC test kit. In a recent case, a man in Colorado was acquitted of his cannabis DUI after convincing the jury that while he may have had the drug in his system, he was not impaired. His lawyer argued that unlike alcohol, cannabis affects different people in different ways. In other words, the blood test used by the state police to judge the level of physical impairment in the defendant was a waste of time. Although the man had 7.9 nanograms per millimetre of THC in his blood and the legal limit in Colorado is 5 nanograms per millimetre, it took the jury under an hour to dismiss the case entirely. I’ll say that again: it took the jury under an hour to look at the evidence and throw out the case.
On the other hand, several states have ruled out any driving while under any level of THC completely. Effectively meaning that in these states, Michigan included, medical users are bared from driving. Is that fair?
Having legalised marijuana in various forms this year, Canada’s Department of Justice faced the same tricky predicament. However, they’ve devised a method of policing that seems to work well. Driving while impaired by any drug legal or illegal and can lead to up to 120 days in jail. A standardised sobriety test is administered at the roadside as well as a new saliva testing system. The testing method using saliva samples is not always completely accurate or fair. But now a revolutionary new device that measures the THC on the breath, almost like a breathalyser, is being developed the future for testing seems bright. It’s still in the early stages of development but if successful this device should make the guidelines for use much clearer.
This write up is just a snippet of a very wide and complex matter. It’s a huge topic and many different personal circumstances need to be considered. Remember, this issue hasn’t even been assessed in reference to those like myself who will need regular doses of CBD and THC. Will #Breakingthelawtobreathe mean that driving is a no go for me and other medical users?