Medical Marijuana and the DUI Gray Area
By Dan Noll on March 17th, 2016 in Articles, DUI Law
In Illinois, drivers automatically receive a DUI charge if they’re caught driving with marijuana in their systems. Fox 55/27 reports that the state is labeling its Medical Marijuana Pilot Program as one of the strictest in the US. A person cannot legally buy the medicine until a doctor has certified that he or she has one of the 39 conditions Illinois recognizes, which include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Even with certification and a legal prescription, a person who is found behind the wheel with marijuana in his or her system could get hit with a DUI.
Springfield Police Department’s Lt. Chris Mueller says they’ll be looking for signs of drivers weaving, just as with alcohol, or those who can’t seem to function normally, are moving slowly, or are easily distracted. If an officer believes a driver is under the influence, that driver will automatically be asked to take a drug test, such as a blood or urine check at a local hospital.
THC Can Linger
The issue here is that even if a driver didn’t use medical marijuana the day he or she was pulled over, it still may show up in his or her system if used regularly. It’s the tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, that is responsible for the drug’s effects, and this can linger in the human body for a long time. Mueller noted that this is currently a gray area because state laws dictate that if a driver has THC in his or her system, that driver is subject to arrest for a DUI.
According to Jay Cook of HCI Alternatives, a licensed Springfield dispensary, THC is a fat-soluble molecule, so it stays in the fat cells in the human body. People who are heavier and have more tissue will have detectable THC levels for longer, with the average time it remains in the body usually ranging from 30 to 60 days. While it can impair your driving, Cook says, the side effects don’t last.
It also depends on how many milligrams the person has consumed. An average inhalation of medical marijuana ranges from three to five milligrams, which can affect a person in the first 15 minutes after taking it and last for the next two hours or so.
Despite all these facts, the Springfield Police are saying that a driver with any THC in his or her system will be charged with DUI, even if the use is medical. State legislation that aims to set a threshold of impairment when it comes to medical marijuana use is currently pending.
DUI in Springfield
Being charged with DUI in Springfield is a serious matter. It can result in fines, the loss of your license and even jail time. Contact a seasoned DUI attorney in Springfield IL if you’re facing a DUI charge to help ensure your rights are protected.