The laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI) with a medical card differ across states. It is feasible to receive a DUI charge if you are operating a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, even if you have a medical card. However, in states with medical marijuana programs, possessing marijuana in your vehicle is generally not considered an offense if you are a registered medical cardholder.
Explore the DUI laws applicable to medical cardholders in various states and understand the actions that law enforcement can take if they suspect you are driving while intoxicated from marijuana.
Zero Tolerance and Per Se Laws
In some states, there are zero tolerance laws in place for driving under the influence of drugs, including medical marijuana. Zero tolerance means that any detectable amount of a controlled substance, such as THC, in a driver’s system is considered a violation, regardless of impairment. These laws are designed to discourage any drug use while driving and simplify enforcement by eliminating the need to prove impairment.
Other jurisdictions have “per se” rules in place, which specify precise upper limits for the amount of THC. DUI charges may be brought against a driver whose THC level is higher than the allowed limit. Contrary to alcohol, where BAC levels are uniformly applied across the country, per se THC limitations differ from state to state. It’s critical to become informed with the precise legal restrictions on THC and impairment in your state.
Can You Get a DUI with a Medical Marijuana Card?
A DUI (driving under the influence) ticket is given to a driver who is found to be intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle. Most of the time, people associate DUIs with drinking alcohol and operating a vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is higher than the American standard of 0.08%. However, if you have used cannabis and are impaired due to the intoxicating effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), you may also be stopped and charged with a DUI.
However, there is no set legal limit for THC in relation to DUIs. Another issue is the possibility of testing positive for cannabis metabolites even if you didn’t use any on the day you’re driving because cannabinoids have a tendency to linger in the body. Some attorneys claim that marijuana DUIs are more challenging to prosecute because of this legal limbo.
However, as there is no established threshold for THC intoxication, having even trace amounts of the cannabinoid in your system can result in legal trouble. The punishments for a marijuana DUI are frequently the same as those for an alcohol DUI if you are successfully convicted. Different states have different DUI laws and penalties (also known as DWI or driving while drunk).
Laws Regarding Medical Cards and Driving
DUI penalties in the United States lack uniformity, as each of the 50 states establishes its own set of laws and guidelines. In certain states, it is possible to be held accountable for transporting marijuana in your vehicle, even if you are not under the influence of THC. Due to federal regulations categorizing cannabis as an illegal controlled substance, it is prohibited to transport the plant across state lines, even if you possess a valid medical marijuana card.
The severity of penalties for marijuana transportation, often referred to as trafficking, varies among states. For instance, Georgia and North Carolina do not permit medical cannabis use, and transporting marijuana through these states would be considered drug trafficking. In Georgia, possessing over one ounce of marijuana is a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. However, laws are subject to change, and with Georgia implementing a low THC program, it is possible that future legislation will relax restrictions and potentially decriminalize cannabis possession.
Regarding DUI marijuana laws, here are some guidelines from the four most populous states in the country.
Despite the legality of recreational and medicinal marijuana in California, individuals can still face prosecution and conviction for DUI charges. Even medical marijuana patients are not exempt from these laws. If suspected of marijuana DUI, you may undergo a urine or blood test to detect THC, and the presence of the cannabinoid can be used as evidence against you. Consequences for marijuana DUI in California include license suspension, potential jail time, mandatory safety classes, and substantial fines.
Florida’s message to motorists is clear: Drive baked, get busted. While medical marijuana use is allowed in the state, cardholders are subject to the same DUI laws as others. Penalties for DUI in Florida are severe and can lead to license revocation, imprisonment, hefty fines, and a permanent mark on your criminal record.
In New York, even a positive test for any amount of marijuana can result in a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired with Drugs) charge. Possible penalties include prison time, and the severity increases if minors were present in the vehicle. Under Leandra’s Law, causing the death of a child under 15 years old due to impaired driving can result in a felony charge and up to 25 years of imprisonment.
Texas has stringent laws against driving under the influence, regardless of the substance involved. Violators can face fines of up to $10,000 and prison sentences of up to 10 years. These penalties apply to DUI cases involving alcohol, cannabis, or any other substance. Repeat offenses carry even harsher consequences, including lifetime driving privileges suspension and lengthy imprisonment, especially for third and fourth offenses.
Responsible Use and Alternative Transportation
To avoid the risk of a DUI charge and to prioritize safety, individuals with medical cards should practice responsible use of medical marijuana. This includes following recommended dosage guidelines, being aware of the potential side effects and impairments, and refraining from driving if feeling impaired in any way.
When medical marijuana use is necessary, it is advisable to explore alternative transportation options. Relying on public transportation, ride-sharing services, or designated drivers can ensure a safe and responsible approach to using medical marijuana while avoiding the risks associated with impaired driving.
Read More: How Much Does A Medical Marijuana Card Cost?
Regardless of whether you have a medical card, you should never use cannabis before driving. You are liable to state DUI laws if you drive while under the influence of cannabis or any other restricted substance. Additionally, if you possess marijuana while driving in a state without a medical marijuana program, you could face criminal and/or civil consequences. Finally, if someone is hurt or killed as a result of your drunk driving, you could be charged with vehicular homicide, negligent homicide, or a variety of other criminal offenses.