Cannabis DUI & The Marijuana Breathalyzer Test
What is driving under the influence (DUI) of cannabis?
In the state of California, “it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug (including cannabis) to drive a vehicle.” (Code 23152(f). VC 23152(f))
A driver is considered “under the influence” of marijuana when his or her mental and or physical abilities are so impaired by the consumption of cannabis that he or she cannot operate the vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances. (People V. Enriquez)
This includes smoking and eating (yes, edibles too!) any marijuana products prior to or while driving. Open container laws (that usually apply to alcohol) also apply to marijuana, which must be in an unbroken, sealed container if in the main car cabin.
Whether the impairment is a result of alcohol or marijuana, the same DUI penalties apply to both sets of drivers under the influence.
What is the legal limit for marijuana or TCH in California?
It’s important to note that in the state of California, there is not a legal limit for marijuana. Other states restrict the amount of THC that can be in a driver’s bloodstream, but this has been shown to be widely unreliable as a measurement of impairment.
California has yet to set a legal limit for THC because experts cannot agree how much marijuana is too much for driving, but this does not mean that you cannot be convicted.
What evidence can be used to convict someone of a cannabis DUI?
The police officer can testify to the defendant’s erratic driving pattern, slurred speech, statements or answers to questions, sobriety field test performance (never do these!), possession of drug paraphernalia in the car, physical composition including but not limited to dilated pupils, red eyes, labored breathing, dry “cotton” mouth, smell of marijuana, and slow reaction time.
According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), about 1,700 drug recognition evaluators work for CHP and other local agencies and have increased marijuana impairment recognition training after the pass of Proposition 64.Police assessments are only 1 piece of evidence a California prosecutor can use to show impaired driving.
Chemical tests of the blood, saliva, and breath for measuring drug levels are on the rise. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical in cannabis that testing usually measures.
What is Marijuana Breathalyzer Test?
In California, Hound Labs developed a disposable cartridge Marijuana Breathalyzer to test TCH levels. The cartridge is designed to detect marijuana use within the past 2 hours. Some experts argue that this is the peak time for the full effects of THC.
Because there is no legal limit of THC or expert consensus on THC level and impairment correlation, the marijuana breathalyzer results alone cannot provide definitive evidence for a DUI conviction.
Chemical testing for TCH runs into problems. Chemical tests cannot accurately pinpoint when or how much cannabis was used. There is also not a consensus on how much or at what point after consumption marijuana leads to impaired driving.
The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) estimates that 1-4 hours after consumption are the times when THC can slow a driver’s reaction time and the ability to make decisions.
If you find yourself in marijuana DUI legal trouble, contact Don Hammond for a strategic defense consultation aimed at winning your case. When the evidence is stacked against you, we can help design a winning defense that keeps you out of trouble.