Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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Marijuana DUI in Tacoma, Washington

A DUI charge can happen when a person is driving under the influence of any drug or medication that might affect his or her ability to properly operate a vehicle. If a police officer has probable cause, he or she can stop a driver under the suspicion of marijuana use while driving in Tacoma, Washington.

Marijuana DUIs and DUIs for driving under the influence of alcohol are very similar charges with a few differences. One of the biggest differences is in actually determining the level of impairment. To determine the amount of THC in a driver’s system, a blood test must be taken. In the state of Washington, you will be charged with a Marijuana DUI if your blood has five nanograms of THC per millimeter of blood and you are over 21 years old. If you’re under 21, you can’t have any THC in your system within two hours of driving.

If you are charged with marijuana DUI in Tacoma, the consequences on your license and record are essentially the same as an alcohol related DUI. But, marijuana DUI laws can be confusing to navigate and comprehend despite how much you might hear about them on the news, or read about them online. THC tests can be ambiguous and might not indicate whether you were actually impaired while driving

At the Law Offices of Barbara Bowden in Tacoma, Washington, we know it’s our job to stay up to date on Washington marijuana driving laws and how they can affect our clients. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, we can provide important and helpful information. We can help you navigate the charge and determine the most beneficial plan of action for you after being charged.

Whether you’re a marijuana user or not, it is beneficial to have at least a base understanding of marijuana DUI laws in Washington and how a marijuana DUI charge is determined and issued by police officers. Below are some common questions from the Marijuana Policy Project about marijuana DUI law that provide helpful information about why marijuana DUI might be issued.

How do laws against driving under the influence of marijuana work?

Laws against driving while under the influence of marijuana vary from state to state. Last year, the LUCID Act (Limiting Unsafe Cannabis-Impaired Driving) was introduced, which requires states that have any legalized marijuana laws to set standards for impaired driving. The bill does not specify what the standards should look like, just that states should have them. So, Washington’s impaired driving policy for marijuana might be a little different than another state ours.

But, generally, the same rules apply. Blood testing is the most reliable way (so far) to test for accurate levels of THC in the system at the time of operating a vehicle.

When it comes to marijuana DUI charges, law enforcement will mainly try to determine whether or not the driver is impaired and thus incapable of safely operating a vehicle.

What is the threshold for considering a driver to be impaired by marijuana?

It is still unclear exactly what blood level of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, constitutes real impairment. As stated above, in Washington the limit is set at five nanograms per millimeter of blood. Many scientists researching this issue acknowledge that it’s difficult to peg THC impairment to a number, and epidemiological evidence on the risk of accidents associated with marijuana is much less conclusive than data regarding alcohol.

A study measuring driver “culpability” (fault) in 3,400 crashes over a ten year period found that drivers with THC concentrations of less than five nanograms in their blood have a crash risk no higher than drug-free drivers. The crash risk rises when marijuana users’ THC concentrations are between five and ten nanograms per millimeter.

How long does it take for the psychoactive effects of marijuana to wear off? 

THC is rapidly transferred into the blood stream and levels in the blood rise immediately after inhalation. Depending on how much you smoke, THC typically reaches peak concentrations of more than 100 nanograms per millimeter five to ten minutes after inhalation and decreases to between one and four within three to four hours.

But, this isn’t the case for every marijuana user. Regular users’ blood can contain a considerable amount of THC even after periods of abstaining from use. This is of special concern for medical marijuana patients who are using pot in compliance with state laws and their doctor’s advice, but who might test positive for marijuana impairment under the law even when they’re sober.

In addition, several studies have shown that secondhand marijuana smoke (such as simply being in the car as someone else smoking marijuana) can cause the non-user to show THC concentrations of several nanograms per millimeter.

Can marijuana DUI laws criminalize sober drivers?

Yes, if there is a per se limit for THC. A per se limit means that a marijuana DUI could be given to anyone exceeding the state’s THC blood limit even if that person is not actually impaired by marijuana. Charging motorists who only have THC in their system from marijuana use that occurred days or weeks before is bound to result in people who are completely sober being charged wrongfully.

If you have further questions about marijuana DUIs in Tacoma Washington, contact our office today. If you’ve been charged with marijuana DUI in Tacoma, contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected.