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While laws vary by state, it is possible for you to get a DUI with a medical card if you are driving while under the intoxicating effects of marijuana. However, possessing marijuana in your vehicle is not an offense in states with medical marijuana programs if you are a medical cardholder.
Learn about the DUI laws for medical cardholders in different states and what the police can do if they suspect that you are driving while intoxicated from marijuana use.
Can You Get a DUI with a Medical Marijuana Card?
A DUI (driving under the influence) citation is issued to someone operating a motor vehicle while under the intoxicating effects of a chemical substance. Most of the time, people think of DUIs as pertaining to alcohol and driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08% in the United States. However, you may also be pulled over and prosecuted for a DUI if you have been using cannabis and are impaired from the intoxicating effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
At the same time, there is not a standard legal limit of THC with regard to DUIs. Another problem is that, as cannabinoids tend to stick around in the body, it is possible to test positive for cannabis metabolites even if you didn’t consume any on the day you’re driving. This gray area makes marijuana DUIs harder to prosecute, according to some attorneys.
On the other hand, since there is no minimum THC intoxication level, even a small amount of the cannabinoid in your system can lead to criminal prosecution. If you are successfully prosecuted for a marijuana DUI, the penalties will often be the same as for an alcohol DUI. Laws and penalties for DUI charges (sometimes referred to as DWI or driving while intoxicated) differ among states.
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Laws Regarding Medical Cards and Driving
There are no uniform laws or guidelines for DUI penalties in the United States. Each of the 50 states sets its own laws: Some states have laws that hold you liable for transporting marijuana in your vehicle, even if you are not under the influence of THC. Since cannabis is an illegal controlled substance under federal law, you may not transport the plant across state lines, even if you hold a valid medical marijuana card.
Some states impose harsher penalties than others for marijuana transporting (sometimes referred to as trafficking). Georgia and North Carolina, for example, do not allow cannabis use for medical purposes, and transporting cannabis through either of these states could qualify as drug trafficking. Possessing more than one ounce of marijuana in Georgia is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. But laws are constantly evolving, and now that Georgia has a low THC program, it is possible that future laws will be loosened and cannabis possession even decriminalized.
With regard to DUI marijuana laws, here are some guidelines from the four largest states by population.
Although recreational and medicinal marijuana is legal in California, you can still be prosecuted for and convicted of a DUI. Exceptions are not made for medical marijuana patients. You may be arrested on suspicion of marijuana DUI in California and given a urine or blood test to detect THC. If the cannabinoid is found in your system, the state will have the appropriate evidence to convict you. Possible penalties for marijuana DUI in California include driver’s license suspension, up to six months in jail, mandatory safety classes and thousands of dollars in fines.
“Drive baked, get busted” is Florida’s warning to motorists who drive under the influence of marijuana. Even though Florida allows marijuana use for medical purposes, cardholders are subject to the same DUI laws as anyone else. Penalties for DUI in Florida are stiff and include license revocation, jail time, thousands of dollars in fines and a 75-year stain on your criminal record.
If you test positive for any amount of marijuana in New York, you will be charged with a DWAI – Drug (Driving While Ability Impaired with Drugs) offense. Prison time is a potential penalty, and the severity of penalties increases for those who were driving with minors in the car. Specifically, if a child younger than 15 dies as a result of your actions, you will be charged with a felony and face up to 25 years in prison under Leandra’s Law.
Texas laws are harsh for people who drive under the influence. Fines of up to $10,000 and prison sentences of up to 10 years are possible. These potential penalties apply to people who are convicted of any type of DUI: alcohol, cannabis or another substance.
In addition to the penalties described above, people who drive under the influence will face harsher consequences for subsequent DUIs. First offense DUIs carry the lightest penalties, while third and fourth time offenses often lead to lifetime suspension of driving privileges and long prison terms.
The Bottom Line
Avoid using cannabis before driving whether you are a medical cardholder or not. Driving while intoxicated with cannabis or any other controlled substance subjects you to state DUI laws. In addition, if you are driving in a state without a medical marijuana program, you will be subject to possible criminal and/or civil penalties for possessing cannabis. Finally, if someone is injured or dies due to your operating a motor vehicle under the influence, you may be charged with vehicular homicide, negligent homicide or any number of other criminal penalties.
Consume cannabis responsibly with a medical marijuana card approved by your home state. Leafwell’s dedicated team of medical professionals is here to guide you through the process of applying for your MMJ card online.
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