Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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What to do in Tacoma after a Marijuana DUI


History of Marijuana in Washington

Washington was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use in the 2012 election, setting a new standard for other states. Since Washington and Colorado’s legalization Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. won marijuana legalization in the 2014 election.

With the legalization of marijuana, recreational marijuana shops sales are high. Between July 8 and Sept. 12, customers have bought $12.1 million of recreational pot. While the use of recreational marijuana is allowed, there are still restrictions, such as individuals 21 and older are only allowed one ounce of usable marijuana. People also need to remember that driving while under the influence is not acceptable. The number of people arrested for a drug offense in Washington is still high at 19, 414.

How does Marijuana affect driving?

Marijuana affects perception and psychomotor performance. While alcohol is the number one drug that contributes to accidents, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is the second most commonly found substance. It has been found that between 4 to 14 percent of drivers who sustained injury or died in a car accident had THC in their bloodstream. In Washington, the state patrol found a twenty five percent increase in the number of drivers who tested positive for active THC. It’s important to be very cautious of your condition before getting in a car; don’t put your life or another’s life in danger.

What to do if you get pulled over?

As you’re driving down Interstate 5, you see a cop’s headlights flash behind you. After pulling over, you start to panic since you had just smoked before getting in the car. It’s important to understand what to do in this situation. While marijuana is legal, it’s a question of how much THC is in your system. The legal limit is 5 nanograms of active THC per millimeter of blood, if you’re 21 or over.  The legal limit for drivers under 21 is Zero.

There are two types of THC that are registered in your system if you are a marijuana user. There is the active THC and the Carboxy THC. If you are a regular user, you will have carboxy THC in your system, however, if you didn’t smoke that day and you were pulled over you should not have active THC. If you smoked right before you were pulled over, you’ll show up with active THC.

If you’re pulled, over the cops will be looking for different signs that indicate that you’re driving under the influence. These clues could include the smell of marijuana, bloodshot eyes, speech irregularities, and marijuana in your vehicle. You want to give them as little evidence as possible. If they ask you to take a field sobriety test, politely decline. These test are hard for a sober person to complete and are completely voluntary..

If they suspect you’re under the influence of marijuana the officer can get a search warrant. They will probably ask for a blood draw, but if you refuse the officer can then get a search warrant to test your blood.

It is important to be in contact with a lawyer in the case that they find marijuana  in your system. Be careful about responding to questions because you want to make sure you give them as little evidence as possible.

Medical Marijuana Cards

In Washington, 103,444 residents are considered medical marijuana patients. Medical marijuana use has been legal in the state since 1998. Washington individuals are allowed to posses up to 24 ounces of useable marijuana or 15 marijuana plants. Sometimes confusion occurs when an individual with a medical marijuana need believes that there is an exception for patients driving under the influence. There is no exception. The rules are the same for individuals using medical marijuana as individuals using recreational marijuana.

Future of Marijuana DUIs

While, a marijuana Breathalyzer does not currently exist, we may be seeing one in our future.  This Breathalyzer, currently being developed by researchers at Washington State University, will help detect the presence of active THC.  This test would be similar to the alcohol Breathalyzers currently in use. This would help people eliminate the need of blood test and also reduce the number of false positives.  In 2012, only 18.6 percent of the blood samples taken from suspected impaired drivers were actually tested positive, proving that a lot of people taken in aren’t actually under the influence.

Where to go from here

We want you to remember that it will be very scary to be pulled over for a DUI, whether due to alcohol or marijuana. It’s important to stay calm and know your rights. Give the officer as little evidence as possible. Make sure to be cooperative of the officer, but also know what you have to do versus what the officer asks you to do. It can be stressful and hard to say no to an officer, especially as they stand in front of you with a gun secured to their hip. However, this is your right. They need to get a search warrant in order to test your blood for the time being.

The rules for driving under the influence of marijuana are still hazy in the Washington area. This is uncharted area with the recent passing of recreational marijuana use. Make sure that you stay up-to-date on what you’re allowed to do under the law. However, remember when in doubt it, always better to stay off the road if you’re feeling disorientated. A DUI is no longer just for alcohol, it not can occur to people after smoking marijuana or even taking Ambien or other drugs.

If you are charged with a DUI in Washington, you can have a defense attorney. Remember that you made a mistake; you don’t deserve to be treated like a criminal. You want the best representation possible. We want you to be safe and happy on the road.


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