Marijuana DUI’S Ambiguity:
After a lengthy spell of prohibition, marijuana legalization is now becoming the norm for US states.
The trend started with the pioneer states Colorado and Washington, and has now progressed to the point where 29 states currently have broad laws legalizing marijuana in some form.
Yet, lingering questions still remain on how do police officers and lawmakers determine if someone is too stoned to drive?
Also, for those convicted, what happens to your insurance policy?
Science Behind Cannabis
The science behind pot is still in its youth. We are still learning the psychoactive effects of marijuana. This makes it difficult to convict those who are accused of driving ‘high.’
Studies have found that there are over 500 unique components in pot that make people high known as cannabinoids. The main ingredient that makes people ‘high’ isTetrahydrocannabinol (THC), along with other compounds such as:
- Cannabigerols (CBG)
- Cannabichromenes (CBC)
- Cannabidiols (CBD)
- Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)
- Cannabinol (CBN) and cannabinodiol (CBDL)
- Other cannabinoids (such as cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), and cannabitriol (CBT)
These cannabinoids are fat soluble, which means that they linger in your system while they are being broken down. According to Popular Science, THC is stored in your fat cells and can remain there for a period of days. For habitual users, THC can remain in the system for weeks or even up to 90 days depending on body type and genetics.
This makes is difficult to determine if the driver was stoned while they were driving. THC gets stored in deeper fat cells of the body, making it almost impossible to discern if the cannabis was ingested just prior to driving or if it was from the day before.
This is opposed to alcohol, which is water soluble. Detecting a person under the influence of alcohol with a breathalyzer has proven time over again to be an accurate representation of impairment. Alcohol impairment is widely apparent during intoxication, but leaves your system quicker through the liver. This makes it easier for the courts to correlate the cause and effect of drinking and driving intoxicated as they can pinpoint time between the usages of alcohol and the time you were driving.
Biggest Critics of Marijuana Laws
- Not Scientifically Accurate – Since Cannabis is just starting to become mainstream, there is no ‘acceptable’ limit to the amount of THC in one’s system.
- No conclusiveness – The various tests can contradict each other. For example, hair, urine, or blood analysis all have different results in which no exact level of impairment can be analyzed.
- Tests Don’t Account for Body Type and Genetics – Some people have more tolerance to THC, which makes the impairment levels vary person to person. THC can also stay in people’s systems for various lengths of time.
- False Assurances – The equipment that goes into the level of impairment is not full proof, making it easier to disregard in court.
These main reasons, among others, makes it difficult for the courts to determine if you were impaired while driving. Essentially, the courts have to prove that your driving performance was impacted due to cannabis usage at the time of being arrested.
Since marijuana laws are so new, there is little to no precedent in determining if prosecution of a DUI is permissible. Here are some examples of overturned marijuana DUI charges:
- Police Coercion – Police have been accused of improver conduct to entice a confession.
- Improper Impairment Detection – Minus the smell and red eyes, determining if someone is high is challenging. People may look high and be not, and vice versa, in which being ‘high’ on marijuana can be concealed.
- Medical Needs – In some states, those with a medical marijuana card have more readily been dismissed for a DUI.
- No Proper Evidence – Accused drivers have successfully argued that test was inaccurate representation of how high they were.
What Happens IF Convicted of Marijuana DUI? Insurance Implications…
Marijuana DUI’s have a similar punishment as alcohol. However, due to still being classified as a schedule 1 drug by the DEA and federal government, the result can lead to more fines or jail time. Additionally, your license may be suspended.
If your license gets suspended, your insurance carrier gets notified by the state. This is bad news for convicted drivers, as you will be designated as a “high-risk.” Depending on your driving history, your insurance may be revoked. Otherwise, your monthly premium cost is going to significantly increase for a period around 7 years prior.
Your car insurance rates are likely to dramatically increase following a DUI conviction. According to Cannabis Law Group, in some cases, an annual increase of about $1,500 for several years is added to your cost of insurance. These costs, do not include lawyer fees, which we highly recommend investing in to fight the DUI conviction.
Additionally, some states will require you to file for an SR-22. This helps states know that you are still insured and can monitor your driving history thereafter. Requiring an SR-22 makes is harder to shop for a plan that will insure you as a driver. If they do accept you, the costs mentioned above are a real budgetary burden.
The best way to avoid this stress is not to ingest cannabis if you plan on driving the same day. Under the current laws, you may think you are sober after taking a toke 8 hours ago, but if you are pulled over, you still run the risk of getting a DUI.
Nathan Barber is a Content Specialist for QuoteWizard, an online insurance comparison tool which helps people make decisions on which insurance best fits their needs and budget.