Criminal Defense LawyerLakeland, Tampa, FL

Proposed Marijuana Law Raises Concerns About Impaired Driving

traffic light with marijuana leaf

A Florida criminal defense lawyer examines the issue

Recreational marijuana is currently illegal in Florida, but a proposed 2024 ballot question could change that. While the proposal is still being debated, both proponents and opponents of legalization share a common concern. What impact will legalizing marijuana have on Florida roads?

Impaired driving due to marijuana use is already against the law in the state. Drivers under the influence of marijuana can experience a slowed reaction time, limited short-term memory function, decreased hand-eye coordination, reduced concentration, and difficulty perceiving time and distance.

Penalties for a marijuana DUI include fines, license revocation, and even jail time in some cases.

Will legalization lead to more traffic arrests?

The concern is that legalization will increase the rate of impaired driving. Arrests have gone up in Colorado since that state legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. And in Minnesota, where marijuana became legal this year, authorities are also concerned there will be more impaired drivers on the road.

Catching those drivers is complicated. Determining whether a driver is impaired by marijuana presents unique challenges. This is due to :

  • The lack of standardized testing: Unlike alcohol, there is no universally accepted limit for THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) that indicates impairment. Also, THC can remain in the system for days or even weeks after use, making it difficult to establish a direct correlation between THC levels and impairment at a specific moment.
  • Varied effects: The effects of marijuana on impairment can vary widely between individuals due to factors such as tolerance, frequency of use, strain, and metabolism. Some regular users may exhibit less impairment even with higher THC levels.
  • Multiple substance use: Marijuana is often used with other substances, making it hard to isolate its effects as the sole cause of impairment.
  • Variables in testing: Various methods, such as blood, saliva, and urine tests, are used to detect THC. But they differ in accuracy, sensitivity, and the ability to measure impairment.
  • Lack of standardized field sobriety tests: Unlike alcohol, which has standardized field sobriety tests, no such tests exist for marijuana. Officers must rely on observational skills, which can be subjective.

An experienced attorney can fight for your rights

In Minnesota, the state legislature approved funding to train police officers as Drug Recognition Evaluators (DRE). These officers are trained to consider many different factors when determining impairment, including tests, body temperature, blood pressure, and pupil size.

But the training takes weeks, and as one official noted, it isn’t realistic to send all officers who will be conducting traffic stops to the training course.

While taking drivers impaired by marijuana off the road is important, the impact of these efforts on people’s rights is concerning. Without a clear and established standard for determining impairment, many drivers could unnecessarily face fines, license revocation, and other penalties.

That’s why it’s important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you’ve been arrested for impaired driving in Lakeland or anywhere in Polk County. Thomas C. Grajek, Attorney at Law has been fighting for the rights of Floridians for more than 25 years. He is ready to fight for you.

Contact us for a free consultation to learn more.

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