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How Marijuana Affects Driving

It’s not unusual to hear people say, “I think it’s safer to drive under the influence of marijuana than it is to drive drunk.” While this is the way a lot of people think, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to drive after smoking pot or consuming edibles.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Marijuana significantly impairs judgement, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.”

The NIDA reports that marijuana is the one illicit drug that is most commonly found in the blood of drivers who are involved in car accidents, including fatal crashes. While marijuana has been decriminalized in several states, including California, it doesn’t mean it’s any safer to drive on, nor does it mean it’s legal to drive under the influence of it.

“Those involved in vehicle crashes with THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the incident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol,” says the NIDA. When marijuana is combined with alcohol, the risk of a crash is even greater, according to the agency.


California’s drunk and drugged driving laws are covered under Section 23152 of the Vehicle Code. UnderSection 23152(f) it reads: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” So, this law does apply to marijuana.

Even though marijuana possession for personal use has been legalized in California, it is still against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana under Sec. 23152(f) of the Vehicle Code. That said, the penalties for a first marijuana DUI are the same as an alcohol-related DUI, which include:

  • Fines and court fees up to $1,000.
  • Up to six months in county jail.
  • A suspended driver license for up to four months.
  • Between three and five years of probation.
  • DUI classes for three to nine months.

If you’re being charged with a drug-related DUI in Orange County, contact our firm to meet with a member of our legal team for free.