Testing for alcohol in a DUI charge is simple science. However, testing for marijuana in a marijuana DUI is entirely different. As a newly legal substance, there are no firm laws in place for marijuana testing. And there is no one standard test that effectively detects and measures marijuana. Learn all about the troubles that come with marijuana testing in DUI charges.
What makes the testing process so difficult?
Before you can understand how marijuana testing for DUIs occurs, you need to understand the challenges involved. Marijuana DUIs are very different from alcohol. Alcohol is a well-researched substance. It’s easy to determine when a person is no longer sober, and science agrees on a value to pinpoint that level. In most states, the BAC level for DUIs is .08. Testing your BAC is as simple as an officer giving you a breathalyzer or blood test.
However, marijuana is different. Unlike alcohol, it doesn’t stay in your blood. It takes action in your brain, which makes it difficult to measure. Additionally, it’s also more difficult to determine a value for insobriety. There is no one single test that can accurately tell a police officer how high you are. On top of that, people seem to disagree on how much marijuana is too much. Science has yet to determine when a driver qualifies as impaired by marijuana. While experts can agree that too much marijuana causes impairment, they can’t quantify it.
Another challenge comes in the many forms of marijuana. When you ingest it, your body takes longer to metabolize it. You may have traces of it in your system, but you may not have any signs of impairment.
Because of these challenges, issuing marijuana DUIs is difficult. It’s a gray area without much research. If you find yourself facing a marijuana DUI, you may be in uncharted territory.
Measuring for a Marijuana DUI
At first, scientists used a test to look at one ingredient in marijuana. Known as Carboxy THC, this ingredient is the most abundant in marijuana. For that reason, it was easier to test for it.
As it turns out, carboxy THC is not a good choice for marijuana testing. Research shows that there is no connection between the level of carboxy THC and impairment. Having the compound present in your body only proves that you used marijuana in the past. In some cases, it can stay in your system for as long as a month. Police officers need to be able to test for impairment. With the legalization of marijuana in most states, proving past marijuana use means nothing in court.
Another test for measuring marijuana is a THC blood test. By looking at the amount of delta-9-THC in your blood, the test shows impairment. For example, a test with a value of more than five nanograms could make you guilty of a marijuana DUI in Colorado.
However, this test also has its flaws. A certain amount of delta-9-THC in your blood doesn’t always indicate impairment. In fact, this test is known for being inaccurate. People metabolize marijuana differently, and this test may no show whether or not a person is impaired.
A lack of testing protocol
With the legalization of marijuana, science is behind. There is no way to accurately measure marijuana in a driver. However, you could still find yourself facing a marijuana DUI. Every state handles the situation differently. However, every state has one thing in common. They all lack a way to measure marijuana and test for impairment. Scientists are working on the problem and are making strides, but they don’t yet have testing figured out.
Without a testing protocol, it’s like a guessing game. Police officers can arrest you for a DUI charge, but they rely on inaccurate evidence to prove your impairment. In time, there will be a standard test. But for now, there’s nothing.
The Consequences of a Marijuana DUI
You might think that the consequences of a marijuana DUI would be different than those of another DUI. However, that’s not the case in Rhode Island. In the state, being under the influence of drugs or a controlled substance is enough to get you a DUI. Driving with the presence of any controlled substance (like marijuana) in your blood also warrants a DUI.
That said, a medical marijuana patient cannot face a DUI for having metabolites of marijuana in their system. If you legally take marijuana, it could be difficult for an officer to charge you with a marijuana DUI. A good lawyer may be able to help you.
The penalties for a DUI in Rhode Island vary. If you have a controlled substance in your blood, you could face a fine of between $100 and $300. You could also be sentenced to between ten and sixty hours of community service. In addition to that, you could face imprisonment for up to a year. You may need to attend a driving course. Finally, you can face a license suspension of up to 180 days. For second and third-time offenders, the penalties can be greater.