Marijuana and derived cannabis products are now legal for private, at-home consumption in Massachusetts. With the use of THC products now legal and in the open, it becomes even more important to remember continuing legal restrictions on and best practices surrounding their consumption. One of the foremost issues at the intersection of law, good citizenship, and cannabis is that of driving under the influence of marijuana and marijuana-derived products.
Most people are familiar with the laws surrounding DUI, or at least they think they understand these laws. Let’s take a moment to review the laws regarding alcohol and the operation of a motor vehicle in Massachusetts. While it is true that in Massachusetts, like all fifty states,the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 for people of legal drinking age, this is not the end-all, be-all determiner for the filing of DUI charges. The responding officer’s discretion plays a major role in DUI arrests:even if someone’s BAC is below the legal limit of 0.08, if their performance in a field sobriety test is poor, or if their driving is erratic, an arrest may occur, because the law stipulates that “impairment” is the requirement.
Driving while impaired is an arrestable offense, regardless of the source of the impairment. This is the portion of the law that bans driving under the influence of marijuana or cannabinoid products, along with prescription drugs and any other substance that may impair drivers’ abilities. While no Breathalyzer test exists for marijuana intoxication, police officers rely on the same prudential metrics to determine impairment as they would with suspected drunk driving: field sobriety tests and erratic driving.
Another similarity between the law governing drunk driving and high driving is the ban on open containers in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle. In the same way that an open can of beer in the cup holder would lead to legal problems, so would an open container of edibles in the same spot. Just as a police officer can cite the smell of alcohol on a driver’s breath or person as reasonable suspicion of DUI, so too can the smell of marijuana on clothes, hair, or car interiors lead to an arrest.
Of course, with so much dependent on the judgement of police officers, who are only human, there exists the possibility of error or misunderstanding leading to an unjustified arrest. As even Breathalyzers in Massachusetts cannot be counted on to give accurately calibrated readings, the notion of “objective” proof of DUI is coming more and more under siege.
While it is always safest—physically and legally—to have a designated driver, misunderstandings and mistakes do happen. If you find yourself wrongfully charged with DUI for enjoying legal cannabis products, call our office today to discuss your options.