Is a Marijuana DUII the Same as for Alcohol?

Posted on behalf of Rizk Law on Oct 16, 2016 in Consumer Alerts

Driving any vehicle under the influence of marijuana, whether for medicinal or recreational use, is illegal in Oregon. While a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent of a driver’s blood, by volume, will conclusively establish that a driver is under the influence, when marijuana is involved, any amount that was in the driver’s blood or urine while he was driving will establish that the driver was under the influence.

Unlike alcohol, there is no set amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principle psychoactive chemical substance in marijuana/cannabis, in the blood or urine of a driver that is presumed to cause mental or physical impairment. Oregon law considers the mere presence of marijuana metabolites over minimal threshold levels, combined with an officer’s suspicion of recent marijuana use, to be the basis for arrest and criminal charges.

How Is Marijuana Intoxication Determined?

DUI can be proven when a driver is adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree by the use of liquor and/or controlled substances. Oregon uses Drug Recognition Experts or Drug Recognition Evaluators (DREs) to evaluate whether a driver is under the influence of drugs. According to the Drug Symptom Matrix relied upon by DREs, general indicators of marijuana/cannabis use include:

  • Very red eyes
  • Odor of marijuana
  • Body tremors
  • Eyelid tremors
  • Relaxed inhibitions
  • Increased appetite
  • Impaired perception of time and distance
  • Possible paranoia
  • Disorientation

A DRE examination, as requested by an officer, will also look for:

  • Involuntary jerking of the eyes when tracking an object moving horizontally and vertically in front of the eyes
  • Pupils not reactive to light
  • Inability to cross the eyes
  • Elevated pulse rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature

The duration of effects of marijuana are assumed to be 2-3 hours, so it is inadvisable to drive within several hours of using it. Because the effect of marijuana, as with any intoxicant, can cause problems with perception, marijuana users should not assume they are sober.

What Are the Consequences of a Marijuana DUII?

As with all intoxicants, driving under the influence of marijuana has extremely serious consequences. If found guilty on a first offense, you could be fined up to $6,250 and could receive up to one year in the county jail. Your license could also be suspended, unless it is your first offense and you have agreed to participate in a diversion program. With a diversion program, you can avoid a conviction for DUII by agreeing to not contest your case, to undergo substance abuse evaluation and treatment, to pay the court fines, and to not consume alcohol for the one year of diversion.