In November 2012, Washington voters passed Initiative 502 legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Opponents of the initiative argued that the law, if passed, would cause an increase in stoned driving and would then, in turn, cause an increase in DUIs. It turns out that, at least early on, the concerns have gone unfounded as the Washington State Patrol reports that the number of DUI of drugs are down from the same time as last year.
From December 6, 2012 to January 6, 2013, it was reported that there were 30 less DUIs in the state of Washington than the same time last year when marijuana was still illegal.
Washington State Patrol Lt. Mike Saunders told NBC, “It’s early since the law passed so it’s hard to know how this is really going to play out but the early signs, I guess, are encouraging. Hopefully people are being responsible in how they consume marijuana and if this trend continues, that would be great.”
Fears of a rise in DUIs not only came from opponents, but from marijuana users as well. However, the fear came from the DUI standard that a person cannot legally drive with 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood. THC can stay in a user’s system well beyond the point of intoxication. It is therefore possible, and even likely, to have 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood after the user is no longer stoned.
Anthony Martinelli, Communications Director of the legalization group Sensible Washington offers the following tips to prevent a DUI of marijuana and continue the positive trend reported by the Washington State Patrol:
- Never drive with a cannabis-friendly bumper sticker
- Do a quick inspection of your vehicle, making sure there are no obvious problems, like broken taillights.
- Make sure that you do not smell like cannabis when you leave the home – use deodorant, perfume, etc., even if you haven’t smoked in hours. The slightest scent could give the officer reason to test your blood, and to assume you’ll be above the 5, or 0 ng/ml limits.
- Be cautious when driving with any amount of cannabis on your person, even if it’s under an ounce. Possessing even a gram is enough probable cause for an officer to search you, and test your blood.