Can You Get an OVI for Using Medical Marijuana?
True or false: you are safe from a drugged driving arrest if the marijuana you take is prescribed by a doctor.
The answer is false. Are you surprised?
Many patients in Ohio (more than 50,000!) take medical marijuana in order to manage conditions like cancer, PTSD, and chronic pain. Medical marijuana is something like a lifesaver—helping them live better lives.
Unfortunately, thanks to some outdated laws, murky science, and aggressive law enforcement, medical marijuana patients may be at risk of unwarranted OVIs.
Why are you at risk, and how can you stay out of trouble? We’re answering these questions today!
What Ohio OVI Law Says about Medical Marijuana
When it comes to operating a vehicle under the influence, Ohio law doesn’t make any distinctions between recreational and medical marijuana.
The legal limit for marijuana is 35 nanogram of marijuana metabolites per milliliter of urine, or 50 nanogram per milliliter of blood. If law enforcement pulls you over on suspicion of drunk or drugged driving and you test at the legal limit for marijuana, you may face OVI charges. This is regardless of whether or not you have a prescription!
Unfortunately, this limit is very low, and could end up “catching” drivers who weren’t actually stoned behind the wheel.
How Marijuana Affects Your Body
Lawmakers have attempted to regulate marijuana and driving much the the same as they do alcohol. The problem, however, is that marijuana and alcohol are very different drugs.
Alcohol has been widely studied by researchers for decades, and its effects on driving are known and scientifically proven. Studies have shown that intoxicated drivers have slower reflexes, poor decision-making skills, and lowered inhibitions. The more a person drinks, the worse they are at driving. At .08 BAC, we know that a driver becomes unacceptably dangerous behind the wheel. A legal limit for alcohol at .08 BAC makes sense.
Marijuana, on the other hand, has been studied far less. We simply don’t much very much about it! (Because marijuana has been illegal for decades under federal law, it’s hard for researchers to get funding to study it.)
While we do know that marijuana negatively affects driving—by worsening coordination, reflexes, and judgment—we don’t know by how much. We also don’t know how many car accidents have been caused by stoned driving.
Furthermore, setting a legal limit for marijuana is complicated by the fact that the drug can stay in the body for days or even weeks. That’s because THC (the compound in marijuana that makes someone feel “high”) is lipid-soluble: the compound binds to fat in the body, making it enter the bloodstream more slowly. Even after the “high” has worn off, the THC remains.
Marijuana stays in the body longest for chronic users—like medical marijuana patients. Unfortunately, this means that a person who uses marijuana legally could test above the limit long after the intoxicating effects of marijuana have worn off. (To put this in perspective, imagine having a BAC above the legal limit because of a few drinks you had two days ago.)
If you are a medical marijuana patient, this is certainly worrisome! You might never dream of driving high, but you could be at risk of an OVI. Can you do anything to mitigate the risk?
How to Avoid a Marijuana-related OVI
If you consume marijuana for medical reasons, there isn’t a surefire way to avoid a marijuana-related OVI. However, there are a few things you can do to lower your risk of an OVI.
- Lower THC when possible. Many medical marijuana strains have been grown to have a higher CBD than THC content. (CBD has medicinal effects but no psychoactive effects.) Though all strains will have some THC, consider choosing the strains with lower amounts.
- Know your body. Marijuana affects everyone a little differently. It’s important to be very aware of how marijuana affects you, how much you need to feel “high,” and how long any psychoactive effects generally last for you. With this knowledge, you can make safer decisions about when to drive.
If you are ever pulled over, it is inadvisable for you to admit to being a medical marijuana patient: this might cause unnecessary suspicion.
Facing an OVI?
If you are facing charges of drugged driving, it helps to have a skilled, knowledgeable OVI attorney on your side. A qualified attorney can fight your charges to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Call us today to find out how we can help.