With Colorado and Washington’s recent passages of laws allowing recreational use of marijuana, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at California’s current status on marijuana law and its effect on DUI law.
In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act. In doing so, California became the first state to establish a medical marijuana program. The law gave people with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other chronic illnesses the “legal right to obtain or grow, and use marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a doctor.” In 2003, Senate Bill 420 (AKA the Medical Marijuana Protection Act) was signed into law by then Governor Gray Davis. SB420 established the identification card system for medical marijuana users.
In 2010, California voters defeated California Proposition 19. Proposition 19, titled Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, would have legalized marijuana in California and allowed the government to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana.
Although the people of California cannot use marijuana recreationally…yet, with a valid prescription and an identification card, you can possess and use marijuana as medication for any number of ailments. Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken aspirin and driven. Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken Nyquil and driven? Raise your hand if you’ve ever smoked medical marijuana and driven? Under California law, you are guilty of California Vehicle Code section 23152(a) (California’s DUI law for drugs) if you drove while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug. Yes, that includes prescription and over the counter drugs.
How does the prosecutor determine if you are under the influence of a drug?
The prosecutor proves you are driving under the influence of drugs by proving several things; that you performed poorly on field sobriety tests, testing positive for drugs in your system, your appearance is consistent with someone who is under the influence of drugs, that your driving pattern was consistent with someone driving under the influence of drugs.
In short, the law in California doesn’t care if you’ve got glaucoma and use marijuana for medical purposes or if you’ve taken aspirin for a headache. If you are caught driving under the influence of a drug, any drug, you will be charged with DUI.
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