Medical marijuana helps thousands of people in San Diego deal with symptoms of serious illnesses like cancer, AIDS, anorexia and chronic migraines. Cannabis has been legal in California for medical purposes since 1996, while driving while under the influence of marijuana remains illegal. But as we have discussed before in this blog, law enforcement has no scientific, objective way of determining if a motorist is “impaired” by cannabis or if they have the remnants of THC in their system and are perfectly sober.
The lack of a supposedly reliable THC breath test can lead to a wrongful arrest on drugged driving charges. This is a problem for every state that has legalized cannabis for at least medical purposes. Over in Pennsylvania, legislators are trying to add some protections for drivers with legitimate prescriptions who get pulled over by the police.
In the body, or actual impairment?
A bill in the Pennsylvania State Senate would tighten the level of evidence a police officer must show before they can arrest a driver and have them charged with driving while high on marijuana. Currently, patients who use medical marijuana operate under a zero-tolerance policy. They can be charged and convicted even if there was no evidence they were impaired. Unlike alcohol, traces of marijuana linger in the human body long after its impairing effects have faded.
If the bill passes, police would have to show that the driver they want to arrest is actually impaired. That would put the prosecution of cannabis-related DUI in line with other prescription drugs. The bill was recently passed out of committee and can now be considered by the state Senate as a whole.
Arrested for using marijuana legally
The uncertainty around drugged driving in California means that you can be wrongfully arrested and prosecuted based on shaky evidence. Until lawmakers clear this up, it is a reality that drivers need to be prepared for.