Pot users at risk for DUI even if below the legal limit in Washington State

I just read an article about an issue dealing with the recent marijuana legalization here in Washington state and a DUI. To be honest I hadn’t thought about this particular issue the article raises, but I find it very interesting. Essentially the article discusses how many law abiding citizens of Washington state, who have never tried marijuana are going to go out and purchase it legally now? And of those people how many are at risk for DUI?
You see the general public out there only see one thing when it comes to marijuana and DUI. They see the legal limit as 5 nanograms. What do they have to compare that to? Well the legal limit for an alcohol DUI is .08 blood alcohol level. So the general public sits back and thinks. Well if I can have 2 beers an hour, or a cocktail an hour. Whatever they think they can have to get below the legal limit, they may apply that same line of thinking when it comes to marijuana.
The problem with that line of thinking is marijuana does not have the same effect on a persons body as alcohol does. Figuring out a persons alcohol level is pretty simple math. You take into consideration their body weight, alcohol consumed, over what duration, food, etc. But with marijuana none of that really factors into what a THC level would be. Marijuana may have different levels of potency, it may affect a person differently based on their regular usage. There are many factors that are not known.
The other issue this article discusses is what happens when the THC level is below the legal limit. As a Seattle DUI Lawyer, I see this every day when it comes to alcohol. I can’t tell you how many clients I have represented on a DUI that have had alcohol levels below the legal limit of .08. In fact in my experience most people are shocked to think you can be arrested for DUI below the legal limit, let alone charged with a DUI for it. But it is true, and it happens all the time.
Well the same thing is going to happen with marijuana DUI’s in Washington state. In fact the article mentions a case in King County Superior Court where an individual was charged and convicted of vehicular homicide with a THC level of 1.6 nanograms, which is significantly less than the current legal limit of 5 nanograms. Now that person is in prison serving a 16 year sentence.
So the moral of the story is many people are going to want to try marijuana now that it is legal. Maybe try a joint, or smoke a bowl in a social setting. Much like alcohol is consumed. But what you may not know is you can be charged with a marijuana DUI that is below the legal limit. And there is no way to really know what you marijuana level is, unlike alcohol where you can make an educated guess.
CLICK HERE to see the link to the article.
Matthew A. Leyba is a Seattle DUI Lawyer in Washington state. His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other serious traffic offenses.