Congressional Hearing Focuses on "Operating While Stoned"

State legislators are not the only ones who are placing an increased focus on drugged driving prevention. A recent Congressional hearing, titled "Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Operating While Stoned," addressed potential methods of policing driving under the influence of marijuana.

In a nearly two-hour hearing held at the Rayburn House Office Building on July 31, officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided testimony. According to reports, in spite of these officials' testimony, few conclusive answers were provided.

With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the decriminalization of marijuana in several other states and the legalization of medical marijuana in a number of others, it is no wonder that federal legislators are turning their attention to marijuana-related DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated) and OUI (operating under the influence) laws. Every state has a specific legal limit when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol, a blood alcohol concentration of .08%. There is no similar set limit for marijuana, and a standard has not been widely accepted regarding what level of marijuana would be sufficient to impair one's driving abilities.

In addition to the lack of a preset limit for drugged driving, driving under the influence of marijuana presents an added problem based on the fact that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary mind-altering ingredient found in the cannabis plant, can remain in one's system for days or even weeks after its introduction. Heavy marijuana users, for example, may test positive for THC up to 90 days after stopping use, resulting in a false positive for driving under the influence if they are pulled over and tested.

Though the results of the recent Congressional hearing seemed inconclusive at best, it did serve to shed light on the fact that little scientific information is available regarding marijuana and its impact on safe driving and traffic collisions. It also showed that there is no established method for testing for marijuana use in relation to DUI charges. To address these issues, some Representatives recommended an increase in scientific research regarding drugged driving. One Representative suggested looking at technology in Europe that can reportedly measure recent marijuana use with a swab on a handheld device that can determine whether the subject used marijuana or other substances within the past several hours.

If you have been pulled over and arrested on suspicion of DUI involving marijuana, it is important to remember your rights. You have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney. With discrepancies in testing methods to determine THC levels and impairment due to marijuana use, there are ways that a competent DUI lawyer may be able to build an effective defense strategy on your behalf.

At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, we offer experienced DUI defense counsel to clients across Orange County and the surrounding areas in Southern California. If you would like to learn more about marijuana DUI and the options you have in challenging the suspension of your driver's license as well as avoiding jail time, fines and other criminal penalties, please call our offices. A confidential consultation with one of our knowledgeable professionals can offer you the insight you need to make informed choices about your case – something that can make all the difference in the days, weeks and months ahead.

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