Marijuana is legal to some extent in over 30 states and counting — some for medicinal purposes, some fully decriminalized.
What are the implications for driving (including getting a DUI for marijuana intoxication), operating machinery, and driving through states where this herbaceous substance is not legal?
Most importantly, how can you tell when you are intoxicated?
Some states have decriminalized marijuana use for all purposes, or have made it illegal only to the extent of a minor municipal violation. Others allow medicinal use. Many allow both.
Meanwhile, the other states still hold marijuana to be illegal, for both recreational use and medicinal purposes.
To cast an even larger cloud (pun intended) over the room, the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.
So it may be allowable to ingest marijuana in a state but not legal to operate a boat, motorcycle, or car while under its influence. It may be legal to ingest it in a state like Colorado, but illegal to take it from Colorado to a state where it is illegal, even if it was legal in the state from which it came. And if you drive with it into a state where it is illegal, it may get you in trouble in multiple ways.
If you think being stoned makes it hard to make sense of things, how about the fact that there is no uniformly accepted test for determining intoxication for marijuana use!
For example, in Illinois, it is illegal to drive while intoxicated, but it is very difficult without a contemporaneous medical test to even determine what level of pot use yields intoxication. Nor is there a standard for how to test this.
Saliva tests are invasive and costly.
Breath tests are being developed and are not reliable.
There is no scientific consensus on what constitutes intoxication or impairment due to marijuana.
Making matters even foggier is that pot stays in your system in the fat cells for around 30 days, meaning you could test positive for marijuana and its active ingredient, THC, yet not be remotely impaired.
Workers’ compensation in Illinois makes things even more difficult. An employer can claim that an employee who was injured was intoxicated and thus is not entitled to workers' comp benefits. But the employer has to prove actual impairment at the time of the injury, meaning they would have to test the employee contemporaneously and have someone trained to testify about levels of intoxication.
Auto insurers already ask insureds to voluntarily exchange personal information in exchange for lower rates. This comes in the form of personal tracking devices.
It is certainly conceivable that insurers will ask people to volunteer information about legal drug use when applying for a policy of insurance, such as:
Whether you live in a state where marijuana is legal could also be analyzed algorithmically to adjust auto insurance rates.
Where does data collection, ostensibly for public safety purposes, intersect with rights of privacy?
Responsible people can indulge in a few beers, glasses of wine, or sips of whiskey and drive later on that day without any legal or medical impairment. There are also plenty of people able to use marijuana or medical products mimicking its effects and benefits who can still drive without impairment. Yet others cannot.
In short, the effect of marijuana and its companion substances can differ widely upon different people.
One can see there is a giant baggie filled with more questions than answers.
Some food for thought.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
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