Even though Florida allows for the medical use of marijuana, it is not looking upon any other marijuana use as anything other than a crime. In 2016, medical marijuana use was approved, but the laws on possession, trafficking, and illegally transporting were not affected at all.Marijuana can play a big role in impairing one’s ability to drive. A study in Washington State, which has legalized the drug, showed that more fatal crashes involving marijuana impaired drivers have occurred since passing the law legalizing the substance.
If a person is found to have less than 20 grams in their possession, it is a misdemeanor that may get the individual a year in jail. Over 20 grams and up to 25 pounds will get a possible five year sentence. Over 25 pounds and the charge will be trafficking, which carries mandatory sentencing based on how much weight was found.
The laws on driving under the influence of marijuana are the same as those for alcohol impaired driving, and the subsequent punishments for a DUI due to marijuana are the same. A first offense and the driver gets a $500 to $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail. Second, third, fourth, and fifth offenses all carry the same stiff penalties as an alcohol related DUI.
The marijuana user accused of a DUI may be caught in a similar way to other DUI suspects. First, a person who is pulled over at a roadblock by officers looking for impaired drivers may be asked to submit a blood sample if marijuana is smelled in the car, just like they ask someone smelling of alcohol to submit to a breathalyzer. Another method of bringing DUI charges occurs when police find a small amount of marijuana in the car, and then request a blood sample.
Marijuana use and alcohol use are not quite the same when it comes to influence or staying power. Marijuana can be found in the bloodstream for up to 8 days in a person using the drug for the first time. After using the substance 2 to 4 times a week, the blood stream will still reveal some THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) from 11 to 18 days after the last use. The more a person ingests marijuana, the longer it takes to leave the system.
So what about the driver who is taking medical marijuana legally for a medical condition? The law is still clear: If the person recently used marijuana, its best that they do not drive. But in the supposition above, the person using medical marijuana or who has it in his car can still be asked to take a blood test – and refusal to take that test is against the law, punishable by up to a year in jail. Florida is an implied consent state, meaning that by driving a car you are consenting to take a blood or breathalyzer test before you are even stopped.
These scenarios where someone may be stopped and given a drug test can be a source of serious trouble for the medical marijuana user. The staying power of marijuana in the bloodstream combined with the implied consent rule makes it easier for those submitting to the test to be charged with driving under the influence, even if they hadn’t smoked in days.
The Stokes Law Firm is experienced in DUI defense in Florida. Call us today at 727-954-0186 and schedule a consultation, office in St Petersburg and Gainsville Florida.