Washington Marijuana DUI - Are You Putting Yourself at Risk for a Lawsuit?

Along with permission to toke up recreationally, Washington’s marijuana legalization statute also set what many argue is a drastically low limit of cannabis in the bloodstream for legal driving. Initiative 502 established the legal max for marijuana in the blood stream at five nanograms of THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) per milliliter of blood. Is this too low? Too high? And what does it mean for you if you are in a car accident and are struck by someone over the limit or you yourself are over the limit?

Is Initiative 502 Too Restrictive?

Initiative 502 was heavily criticized by pro-pot activists that said the five nanogram limit was arbitrary and that THC affects people differently based on weight, tolerance of the drug and frequency of usage. Studies show that those that toke prior to driving are less likely to be in an accident than those that drink. But the law is also complicated because cops can more easily observe symptoms of drinking than they can marijuana use and may test more frequently than they otherwise might.

Opponents of the law quote studies that support their position and anti-pot activists cite studies in the other direction – but neither will help you if you’re arrested….No matter your opinion, the law is in place and the limit is set. This means that if you choose to imbibe and drive, you are subject to I-502. This also means that you must develop an awareness of your limitations and make smart choices about driving after use to avoid being stopped, tested and arrested.

What If You Are in an Accident and Test Positive?

As with alcohol, if you’re involved in an accident and police suspect you may be impaired, they will likely test you. You may also be tested if you have marijuana paraphernalia in your car even if you show no signs of impairment. If you test over the limit for THC, expect to be ticketed for DUI.

This can also lead to you being ticketed for causing the accident. A driver that tests as “impaired” is much more likely to be blamed, even if the accident evidence indicates otherwise. And if you were struck by a driver over the limit for THC, you’ll want to know if cannabis was a factor – particularly if you were seriously injured. Marijuana DUI citations in accidents will likely lead to increased litigation over injuries suffered.

How Will Marijuana DUI Arrests Impact Medical and Recreational Users?

The fact is, you’re asking to be sued if you toke and drive and get in an accident – just as if you drink and drive and hit someone. And not only are you inviting litigation, but you’ll also become a statistic in favor of overturning I-502. If you enjoy the ability to legally imbibe in cannabis, using responsibly and encouraging others to do so will go a long way to preserving this right.

How to Keep Out of Trouble and Avoid Marijuana DUI Arrest or Citation

Flagrant use of marijuana in public invites trouble – just as public drinking does. Celebrations that invite participants to come out and toke are just asking for law enforcement scrutiny and you should be wary about over-indulging and driving afterward. Responsibility and moderation are your best strategies to stay out of trouble. Combine this with better driving habits – avoid speeding and aggressive driving – and you’ll be less likely to attract police attention on the roads.

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