Ever since it became legal and a useful replacement for patients who would otherwise use opioids, medical marijuana use has spiked in Illinois. While it's a great replacement for opioids and other prescription drugs, it still needs to be handled with care. The increase of DUIs from marijuana use is only going to climb as more people use it medicinally and then get behind the wheel.
Here is everything you need to know about how things are going to change.
Comparing Drinking and Smoking
While there are many people who don't look at smoking marijuana and driving the same way that they look at drinking and driving, they're equally dangerous. Even though your bodily reactions aren't as deeply impaired when you're high as when you've been drinking, you're still impaired. If anyone tries to claim that they've been high but unimpaired, then either they've not been impaired in that way, or they're lying.
While it's difficult to figure out when someone is going to be "over the limit" with driving while under the influence of marijuana, new tests can check out the amount of THC in a body. It takes a while for THC to move through the body and it has a lot to do with how much fat your body has, how tall you are, and even your metabolism.
The potency of the marijuana being smoked is going to determine how long it stays in your system as well.
Right after usage, THC is present in both the blood and saliva of the person who smoked it, or took it if it was in the edible form, but soon after, it tends to decline by a lot. When it's hard to detect, then it's hard to determine whether or not someone was impaired when they were driving.
However, if you're going to smoke, you should wait at least three hours after using marijuana before you get behind the wheel. Even being slightly buzzed on marijuana puts your blood level beyond the legal limit for safe driving. You want to avoid a ticket or having a crash, so it's your safest bet.
They Still Haven't Settled on a Perfect Test
It's been shown in study after study that a significant amount of THC in your body is going to impair your driving. It doesn't matter if you dab, take a capsule, eat an edible, or smoke. Having THC in your blood when you get behind the wheel slows down your reactions, impairs your vision, and makes it harder to focus on quick decisions.
You need to react quickly sometimes when you're driving, and when you're even slightly high, you're likely to make a big mistake.
Researchers from the Department of Transportation found that people who drive drunk are more likely to drive faster and weave in and out of lanes. There are clear and dangerous ways to see that someone is too drunk to drive. Drunk drivers typically take more risks.
Since drivers using marijuana are actually more risk-averse, according to the study, it's slightly harder to notice them. They tend to drive slower and only weave within their own lanes. In most cases, they're going to follow behind other drivers at a greater distance in an attempt to compensate for the use of marijuana.
When people are high, they know they shouldn't be behind the wheel, so they subconsciously compensate for it. This makes it that much harder to avoid.
Look for a Marijuana Breathalyzer
For anyone who drinks and uses cannabis while driving, the worst aspects of each type of driving get compounded together. Setting the limits for each has become difficult to determine when trying to tell what's to blame for impaired driving.
For years, companies have been working on creating the perfect "pot breathalyzer" to test drivers. However, it's still hard to tell how much someone has ingested the way we can measure alcohol. It's only possible to tell that some indeterminate amount has been consumed in the past.
While blood tests are possible, the fact that it stays in the system much longer than alcohol makes if fallible. It could be days later, and still show up in a blood test, making it unclear whether or not the driver was impaired.
It may take some time before the perfect test is created to weed out stoned drivers from drunk drivers, but it'll be on its way. As laws in Illinois and other states have changed, it's going to become a must for law enforcement.
Expect DUIs to Increase
While there are a lot of tax and income based benefits if marijuana is legalized, it's still going to be illegal to drive while using it. Even if we expunge the records of people who've been arrested for carrying it, we can't clean the records of people who've gotten behind the wheel.
There will be thousands of new jobs thanks to marijuana, but there could be a number of new incidents of road accidents. It's going to cost millions of dollars, and take a lot of research, to determine what needs to be done to deal with the issue. While there are sure to be some positive benefits, it eventually needs to be dealt with.
Operating any kind of motor vehicle after you've smoked marijuana means that you're putting yourself at risk intentionally. Even if you're taking it medicinally, there are plenty of medications prescribed with a doctor's warning not to drive while you're taking it.
The cost of dealing with a DUI in court is a pain at any budget, so it's better to avoid one altogether.
Marijuana DUIs Are Tough To Beat
If you get a DUI on your record, you're going have a tough time in a multitude of areas in your life. Even marijuana DUIs can impact your job, your credit, or your ability to get a home loan. It's important to be careful when you're thinking about getting behind the wheel high.
For everything you need to know about the laws, check out our latest guide.