New statistics released by the Washington State Patrol's crime lab report an uptick in positive pot tests among Washington drivers. According to the data, 745 motorists tested positive for marijuana in the first six months of 2013. Yearly, there are roughly 1,000 positive pot tests. More than half of the 745 drivers tested above Washington's new legal limit - 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.
Officials were quick to comment that the apparent rise in positive marijuana tests does not necessarily mean that more motorists are driving under the influence of pot. Instead, law enforcement officers on high alert for drivers under the influence of marijuana may account for a rise in increased blood testing, especially after pot was legalized in Washington last year. Retail sales will not begin until next year.
Marijuana DUI and Legal THC Limit
In both Washington and Colorado, the only two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and over, the legal limit for a marijuana DUI is 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. THC is the active chemical in pot.
Since the 5ng/ml limit was established by Initiative 502 earlier in the year, many have voiced concerns about the legal limit being arbitrary, too low, and an ineffective way of determining whether drivers are "too high to drive." For many scientists, policymakers, and local residents, the 5ng/ml legal limit does not conclusively determine a driver's impairment at the time they are driving a vehicle. Other problems with accurate and timely blood testing, residual and active THC, and other issues further contribute to the debate.
A bulk of the "problem" with marijuana intoxication testing is that the body metabolizes THC radically different than it does alcohol. Whereas alcohol metabolizes in a linear and detectable way, THC does not and is often stored in fat. Other factors also raise questions about how law enforcement officers or blood testing can truly and accurately determine that a driver is impaired enough to be arrested. For example, a medical marijuana user may not be impaired at all at 5ng/ml. An occasional or new user, on the other hand, may be seriously impaired, even at a lower level.
Marijuana DUIs in Washington: A Serious Concern
Driver impairment is a serious and valid concern, but so is ensuring that our criminal justice system works fairly for all. The problem with marijuana DUIs is that researchers and lawmakers are still having difficulties finding accurate testing methods and a legal limit that clearly and fairly separates the impaired from the non-impaired. Still – and for now at least – the 5ng/ml law remains in place.
For now, the best bet for marijuana users in Washington is to simply not drive after using marijuana. In the event that you or a loved one does find yourself facing criminal allegations for driving under the influence of marijuana in King County, Snohomish County, or any of the surrounding communities, you can be confident about placing your trust in a proven Seattle DUI attorney from DUI Heroes.