Driving Under the Influence of Medical Marijuana

Medical MarijuanaIf you follow the news, you may have noticed more and more cases of people driving under the influence of marijuana. In states where medical marijuana use has been legalized, these cases are even more common than they are elsewhere, but how dangerous is this?

It's important to remember that just because using marijuana for medical purposes is legal in some states, doesn't mean driving while high is safe. After all, it's legal to drink alcohol or take antihistamines, but no one would argue that it's safe to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated, or feeling drowsy from products like Benadryl, which includes warnings against driving on the package.

So, why should medical marijuana be a "get out of jail free card" when it comes to driving while under the influence? The short answer is: it shouldn't.

The effects of marijuana include sleepiness, difficulty focusing, a shorter attention span, and a delayed reaction time. Even one of those effects can be dangerous when you're driving, but all of them together mean you absolutely should not be behind the wheel of a car or truck. Since such effects typically last two to three hours, depending on your tolerance for marijuana, and the level of THC in the pot you smoked (or ate or nebulized), it's extremely difficult to judge whether or not driving is safe.

Some states, however, are working on the creation of guidelines for driving under the influence of medical marijuana. Colorado, for example, is considering measuring the level of THC in a driver's bloodstream, though long-term users of cannabis can tolerate higher and higher amounts before they show any impairment. Other states feel that the same tests used to judge any kind of intoxication - walking a straight line, turning, and balancing on one foot - might be enough, especially since marijuana also makes the eyes dilate.

What does all this mean to drivers who are also medical marijuana users?

First, don't drive after using cannabis. Even if you don't get pulled over, you're putting your own life, and the lives of others, at risk. Second, remember that your medical marijuana card means that you can't be prosecuted for using or possessing pot. You <em>can</em>, however, still be arrested, and convicted, for driving while intoxicated.

As more and more states legalize the use of medical marijuana, guidelines for what constitutes intoxication are going to continue to evolve. The best plan: keep your medical use safe at home, and if you are buzzed or high, have a friend drive you where you need to go.

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