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Legalized marijuana means a new type of DUI (Credit: Da... Legalized marijuana means a new type of DUI (Credit: Dave77459, Flickr).
Herbal enthusiasts in Colorado and Washington scored major victories last November when voters passed measures to allow the recreational use of marijuana.

As revelers toked up in celebration and Frito Lay stockholders prepared for their incoming windfall, state lawmakers were faced a number of issues regarding its regulation. One of the foremost questions: How to deal with people who smoke and drive.

Like alcohol and other drugs, marijuana inhibits a person's ability to operate a vehicle. Because of this, lawmakers needed legislation that would define how much pot is too much to drive, and then what penalties awaited those who exceed the limit.

The two states decided to handle the situation in different ways, as Edmunds laid out in a recent post. So if you plan on partaking in some non-medical Mary Jane is either Washington or Colorado, here's what you need to know:


Edmunds explains that Washington has a set legal limit of THC -- marijuana's active ingredient -- that a driver can have in their blood before they are classified as driving under the influence. That level is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. If a driver is above that level, which can be determined by taking a blood sample, then the case is treated like any other DUI infraction.

For a first offense, even before conviction, drivers face a 90-day license suspension and various hefty fines, which depend on the court. If a conviction occurs, offenders could then be subject to a four-year license suspension, drug rehab classes and many, many more fines and fees.


In Colorado, there is no set legal limit for THC in the blood for drivers. How to handle people driving after smoking pot is an ongoing debate.

Interestingly, in one of the newer legislation drafts, lawmakers "are recommending that drivers who test over the legal THC limit could argue they were not impaired," according to Edmunds.

This proposed law would make it so a DUI conviction had to be based on driving impairment, not just the amount in one's system. Colorado legislators are expected to take a serious look at the proposal some time this year.

Arguments against

New regulations are never without critics and, unsurprisingly, some groups have a problem with the new laws.

Medical marijuana users and suppliers in Oregon, for example, have said that Washington's limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood is far too low, making criminals out of most people who smoke even just a small amount and then get behind the wheel.

"There's no science behind that number," Dave Slack, owner of a medicinal marijuana told The Oregonian. "We're talking such a minute amount to make most patients basically criminals."

"With this rule, per se, I'm always going to be driving impaired," Steve Sarich, a Seattle resident and medical marijuana user, told The Oregonian. "Being treated like a criminal for driving? That's certainly not what I would call legalization."

Authors of the law, however, have cited numerous scientific reports, including a large Australian study of 3,400 fatal crashes that found driving risk increases when a person has between 3.5 and 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in their system.

Worries about having stoned-out drivers on the roads have pushed associations representing police in Vermont to urge lawmakers to reconsider decriminalizing marijuana, The Burlington Free Press reported.

"Unlike alcohol, science has not yet determined a presumptive level for marijuana nor has it developed a roadside testing procedure," the groups wrote in a letter to legislators.

While there is disagreement about how much pot is too much to drive, there is even less consensus on how long one should wait after burning one before operating a vehicle.

Research from NHTSA has shown that "marijuana has been shown to impair performance on driving simulator tasks and on open and closed driving courses for up to approximately three hours," but some experts argue that three hours still isn't long enough to rid THC from one's system.

Steve Graham, an attorney in Spokane, told Edmunds that tokers should wait up to 10 hours before they drive.

All in all, until some sort of consensus is reached by the experts, drivers need to wait until they're clear-headed enough to drive, which of course can often be hard to judge. So, the most surefire way to do that is to get a good night's sleep and be very careful on the road Jared Adams, a Denver attorney, told Edmunds.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      Not only the road...how would you feel if your Pilot was high? We don't let them fly drunk...what about this????
        • 2 Years Ago
        I have known several pilots who flew with hangovers so bad they lost consciousness while flying.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Let the drug users be treated like drug users. If they use and drive they go to jail. If they use and hurt or kill some one they go to prison. They make the decission to drive with these laws they are impaired.
      Mr. Slickshit
      • 2 Years Ago
      God forbid the most likely scenario--less roadrage, and more tolerance of the 85% of drivers who aren't qualified to do so. It ain't remotely like the harmful impairment of alchohol. Most of these commenters are doing so out of ignorance, though there will always be a segment of losers who abuse it, just like everything else...
      • 2 Years Ago
      What the f..k?!?! I drive drunk or impared and I am busted. Now " medically necessary " impared is something we just have to...deal with. And "the" idiots rethink things.
        • 2 Years Ago
        No fool if you get stopped while smoking weed you get busted just like it was booze. You can only use your medical weed at home and not drive around under the influence of it. Drinking booze is a much bigger problem to our society than people who smoke weed. Most domestic violence comes from booze abuse, these are too different things but no one has the right to drive around high on anything even over the counter medications. No go have another drink!
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ok lets take a look at the 80,000+ alcohol related fataties each year compared to how many reefer related deaths????? Most people that I know that are stoned drive too damn slow unlike the drunks who fly thinking ten feet tall and bullet proof!!!
        heddow dare
        • 2 Years Ago
        I guess the answer to your reefer related deaths question, is a resounding 'We'll see' now that states have begun legalizing it.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @heddow dare
          Because obviously people don't drive while stoned already right?
      • 2 Years Ago
      Another way to lower the population fast. So sad.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Studies have shown marijuana users are Safer Drivers than either drunk drivers, or sober ones. http://blogs.lawyers.com/2012/04/cruising-the-high-way-safer-than-drunk-driving/ One study, entitled "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption" conducted in November 2011 provides evidence that marijuana is a safer substitute for alcohol when it comes to health and also makes for safer drivers. Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Users Are Safe Drivers When you combine all of the main results of these two decades worth of scientific research studies, the following 10 reasons marijuana drivers are safer than drunk drivers comes out like this: 1. Drivers who had been using marijuana were found to drive slower, according to a 1983 study done by U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). This was seen as a factor in their favor, since drivers who drank alcohol usually drove faster and that is part of the reason they had accidents. 2. Marijuana users were able to drive straight and not have any trouble staying in their own lanes when driving on the highway, according to a NHTSA done in 1993 in the Netherlands. The study determined also that the use of marijuana had very little effect on the person’s overall driving ability. 3. Drivers who had smoked marijuana were shown to be less likely to try to pass other cars and to drive at a consistent speed, according to a University of Adelaide study done in Australia. The study showed no danger unless the drivers had also been drinking alcohol. 4. Drivers high on marijuana were also shown to be less likely to drive in a reckless fashion, according to a study done in 2000 in the UK by the UK Transport Research Lab. The study was done using drivers on driving simulators over a period of a month and was actually undertaken to show that pot was a cause for impairment, but instead it showed the opposite and confirmed that these drivers were actually much safer than some of the other drivers on the road. 5. States that allow the legal use of marijuana for medical reasons are noticing less traffic fatalities; for instance, in Colorado and Montana there has been a nine percent drop in traffic fatalities and a five percent drop in beer sales. The conclusion was that using marijuana actually has helped save lives. Medical marijuana is allowed in 16 states in the U.S.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Oh no. No problem. So ya get stoned, get the munchies, hop in that 2000 lb artillery shell in your driveway and kill a faimly from pittsburg on ya way to the 7-11. What are people dying compared to you getting to do what ya want. You mean NOBODY in the states that legalized pot THOUGHT ABOUT THIS? The state legislature musta been smoking a joint at the time.
        • 2 Years Ago
          • 2 Years Ago
          Did you READ the article? It says that the victim was at fault. HOWEVER, the driver was still convicted of DUI, as he should have been. The law allows you to smoke AT HOME. There's no reason to be driving.
          • 2 Years Ago
        • 2 Years Ago
        You mean you didn't even bother to read the law before making allegations? The levels for per se conviction for DUI marijuana are part of the law. 5ng/ml is written into the law, as plain as day. Don't let your hate cloud the facts, magus. Marijuana has been legal for over two months in both of these states now, and there hasn't been a single incident. It's not like alcohol, no matter what you have been told. No drug messes up a person as badly as alcohol does. Just because you use the worst one, doesn't mean everybody else is as incapable of driving as a drunk. What is the proper level for caffeine, magus? You mean caffeine is legal and nobody THOUGHT ABOUT THAT? See how ridiculous that is? Not every substance is as bad as alcohol. You've been lied to.
      • 2 Years Ago
      and you bitch about guns, auto deaths are way more.....thanks for adding to it
      • 2 Years Ago
      alcohol is a legal drug, people get drunk at a party and the next morning they get up and drive as car still legally intoxicated, no one suggests the drinker give up his or her license marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol or cigarettes, drive high get busted, its a simple concept that would cut down on the cost of arresting, prosecuting and inprisoning offenders not to mention generating millions in revenue unfortunatly the government and othjer narrow minded people think its prudent to spend billions to put people in jail, feed clothe and medically treat people for minor offenses
      • 2 Years Ago
      As I've said, we have IDIOTS running our country. So, now that these marijuana-impaired dummies are running loose on our streets and driving vehicles while they are "impaired", the powers that be find that there is a problem with them being behind the wheels of cars. Well well well! Surprise! Surprise! What in the world did they expect? It's amazing how supposedly intelligent human beings who are making our laws can be so downright STUPID! I think they have sawdust for brains. For Pete's sake, why don't we have anybody in our government who has any common sense? These "lawmakers" are NOT looking out for the citizens of America. I think they must be on something when they pass these laws. And I also think they should be prosecuted for passing such absolutely STUPID laws. Put them in a jail cell for a while and give them time to think about what they have done.
        Kevin Hunt
        • 2 Years Ago
        How many Americans died from marijuana-induced wrecks last year? I'll bet you can't give me a number, dummy.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Two months of complete legality in two states, and the author couldn't bother to mention one fatality that has happened in that time...... Do you know why? Because it hasn't happened. Not one. Stop lying.
      • 2 Years Ago
      if you are drinking while driving , you get a ticket , same for cell .. same should be for smoking!! simple as that .. no big deal ...
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