Washington State has notified permit holders that they can finally open their retail marijuana stores. There is a required waiting period that lets store owners open 24 hours after they place their orders for product. So, we can expect the first marijuana shops to be opening in the state as soon as tomorrow (Tuesday).
In anticipation of the stores opening, The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) officially launched a “Drive high get a DUI” campaign on July 1st. The campaign includes several commercials that try to lighten the severity of the message by incorporating humor. Signs all across the freeways are also being used to get the message out. The goal is to inform the public that driving under the influence of marijuana is something that can put lives at risk.
Many people don’t think about marijuana as something that can get you a DUI. There is no blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for pot. But it is definitely something that can impair driving. Washington State troopers are all given training on how to identify if someone is driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, medicines and other drugs. They have issued DUIs for all sorts of things that impair driving.
It will be interesting to see if the opening of stores that sell marijuana has a noticeable impact on the number of DUIs that are issued. Lawyers in Washington State that specialize in defending clients against DUI charges can probably expect to get a lot more phone calls from people that have been charged with driving while high. This will be particularly interesting as there is a lot less legal history involving marijuana and DUIs than there is for alcohol.
Most DUI defense attorneys have established time-tested methodologies for getting their clients exonerated of charges related to alcohol. They will have to figure out how to best formulate defenses against marijuana DUI charges as there is very little legal history and precedent. The law firms that figure out the most effective ways to defend their clients against marijuana DUIs should definitely benefit from the legalization of the drug.
It will be interesting to see if some sort of measurement will be determined for issuing a DUI for marijuana. Maybe THC level is something that could be used to determine how impaired someone is. Until such a limit or guideline is determined it will be difficult for most people to know if they are at risk of getting a DUI while driving.
People will be left to their own potentially impaired judgment to determine if they can drive safely. We all know that asking someone that has had several drinks if they can drive safely is generally not a good way to determine if they are impaired. We can probably expect similar results of people that are high on marijuana.
Until we have a good way to measure if people are impaired by cannabis it’s probably a good idea not to get in a car with someone that has been enjoying marijuana, especially if that someone is you.