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California Drivers Need Greater Clarity on Marijuana DUI ViolationsCalifornia had time to prepare for the legalization of recreational marijuana since voters passed Proposition 64 in November 2016. Even before that, there was legalized use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, California has yet to answer an important question related to recreational marijuana use: How much marijuana must a driver have in their system in order to be legally impaired? Drivers know that the legal limit for alcohol is a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration and approximately how much alcohol they can consume before they reach that limit. California drivers and police officers can only guess how much marijuana is needed to make someone legally impaired, which puts marijuana users at a disadvantage when they are trying to be safe drivers.

Uncertain Answer

To be fair, it is difficult to quantify the point at which marijuana in a person’s body impairs a driver’s function enough to be a violation of DUI laws. The scientific consensus is that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels are the closest equivalent to BAC levels, but THC can linger in a person’s body for weeks after marijuana use, by which point any impairing effects have subsided. Amongst the states that have legalized recreational marijuana, only Colorado has created a THC limit. Prosecutors in that state can bring DUI charges against a driver who has five nanograms of active THC in their blood. Still, Colorado says that officers should primarily rely on observational signs of impairment when determining whether to arrest someone for DUI.

Upcoming Studies

California officials have recognized their lack of knowledge about the relationship between marijuana use and impaired driving. California recently enacted a law that authorizes the California Highway Patrol to conduct a study of the effects that marijuana has on driving. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego, is also researching driving under the influence of marijuana. Through controlled tests involving drivers with different levels of THC, researchers hope to understand:

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