New legal challenges have arisen with the legalization of marijuana in certain states and as more and more people are being allowed to smoke marijuana for medical purposes. An unfortunate result is an increase in the number of people driving while under the influence of this drug. The legal reality is, impaired driving is impaired driving, regardless of whether the drug is legally consumed.
DUIs Involving Marijuana are not the same as Alcohol
At first glance, it may seem that a marijuana DUI is analogous to driving under the influence of alcohol. However, the legal issues are not the same. For one, it is relatively simple to test someone’s blood alcohol level with a breathalyzer. The same is not true for detecting intoxication from marijuana.
The Detection of Alcohol through a Breath Test
With alcohol, if an individual is still under the influence, that person will have ethanol in his or her bloodstream, which is detectable through a breath test. How does it work? The breath test can detect alcohol because, the alcohol in your blood is added to the air you exhale from your lungs. It is this air that is measured for the presence of alcohol. In reality, the test has nothing to do with alcohol you just consumed, or alcohol “on one’s breath.”
Intoxication by Marijuana Cannot be Detected the Same Way
With marijuana, on the other hand, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical that causes intoxication. Unlike ethanol alcohol, this substance fully metabolizes into a different substance called delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which does not cause intoxication and cannot be readily detected the same way as alcohol.
Using Old and New Levels to Determine Marijuana Intoxication
While it may be possible to tell if someone recently used marijuana, it is certainly not a quick process. If you are given a drug test and it comes back positive for delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in your system, a second test is required within a week. Then, by comparing the level of 9-tetrahydrocannabinol from the previous positive test, it can generally be determined whether you are positive for “new use.” However, these new and old use levels are not sufficiently accurate. So, if you have a positive marijuana drug test, always consult with your criminal defense attorney before making any statements to law enforcement.
If you have questions regarding Marijuana DUI, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law by calling us at (205) 296-4233.