Can You Avoid a DUI if You’re Smoking Legal Weed?

It’s only natural to associate DUI (driving while under the influence) with drinking and driving. But many DUIs come about if the driver is ingesting drugs…even legal drugs…and it’s impairing his or her ability to operate a vehicle safely.

But now that marijuana and marijuana products are rapidly becoming legalized all across the U.S. in 2023 and beyond, it’s almost impossible to avoid the skunk-like smell that’s coming from a car or truck being operated by a driver who likes to get high while driving—bad idea.

Chances are, if the driver is operating his vehicle in an unsafe fashion or is involved in a collision because of the drug, he will face a DUI at minimum. One thing is for certain: if you find yourself in this dire legal circumstance, you’ll require the services of the best attorney you can find.

The professionals at the Law Office of Aaron M. Black, PLLC, a DUI defense attorney in Phoenix, AZ, that a lawyer would be necessary for a simple car accident if alcohol and drugs were involved. Even more serious charges can be lodged against you if an innocent person is seriously injured or even killed.

But what are the implications of simply smoking legal weed and getting pulled over for a suspected DUI? According to a recent report by the law journal NOLO, pot smoking, whether for recreation or medicinal purposes, has become more or less socially acceptable over the past few years. Many states have adopted laws legalizing marijuana. However, many other states still consider the drug illegal. It is also still illegal under federal statute.

But here’s the bottom line about driving and smoking pot: Even if marijuana is legal in your state, it does not mean it’s legal to drive while under the influence. Driving while under the influence of marijuana is said to be illegal in all states.  

How DUI Laws Apply to Pot

While quite a few states have legalized some pot for recreational use, almost all states have decriminalized it for medical usage. When it comes to pot, the term “legalized” means that some marijuana possession for recreational use is legal for adults. In Arizona, for instance, an adult can possess up to one ounce of marijuana legally. They can also cultivate up to six plants inside their home.

The term “decriminalized” means that possession of pot is illegal technically speaking, but generally speaking, law enforcement will look the other way if you possess a small amount on your person. Sometimes, possession of a small amount of pot is treated like a traffic violation and punishable via a fine.

So then, how do decriminalization and legalization affect the laws surrounding DUI? There’s little to no effect. If prescription drugs and alcohol are legal, you will still get slapped with a DUI if they impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely. This means that pot is treated just like any other legal substance, including alcohol.

The Per Se DUI

Says NOLO, in a DUI case that involves alcohol, all the prosecution needs to prove is that the driver was operating a vehicle with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level (0.05 percent in Utah). Anyone who has this amount of alcohol in them should not be operating a car or truck.  

Almost all the per se laws involve alcohol and do not prohibit getting behind the wheel with a certain amount of drugs swimming around in your system. This means a driver who’s been smoking pot won’t be charged with a per se DUI.

However, some states are only now creating a new se DUI law that applies to “drugged driving.” In these U.S. states, a driver can be convicted of a per se DUI if they’ve been smoking too much pot. 

The Impairment DUI

Impairment refers to how badly the drugs one possesses in his system affect his driving and not much of the drug he actually ingested. If the drugged driver is impaired enough to display unsafe driving, it doesn’t matter if the drug is legal or illegal. He will still be charged with impairment DUI.  

All jurisdictions are said to possess impairment DUI charges. However, the degree or level of that impairment varies from state to state. Therefore, conviction rates will typically vary depending on where you call home.  

For instance, in Nevada, prosecutors must prove that the defendant was impaired by drugs and/or alcohol to the point where they were entirely “incapable of safely driving or exercising actual physical control of a vehicle.”

In the end, you should keep in mind that when it comes to smoking too much marijuana or combining it with alcohol will likely result in a DUI conviction if you happen to get pulled over by law enforcement. The severity of your crime and punishment, however, will vary from state to state.



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Scott brings philosophical insights and witty wordplay to his writing for Unfinished Man. With wide-ranging interests from bikes to beers, he explores the novelty in everyday life. Scott aims to both inform and entertain readers with his perspectives on culture, technology, and the pursuit of living well.

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