More States Legalize Marijuana: What Does This Mean For Drivers?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Dec 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

Currently, in the United States, more people favor the legalization of marijuana than in years past. NBC reports that a 2016 Pew study showed that "57 percent of U.S. adults say marijuana should be made legal, compared to just 32 percent a decade ago." Prior to the November 2016 election, marijuana was only legal for recreational purposes in four states -- Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska. In addition, the District of Columbia had legalized recreational marijuana usage.

During the 2016 election, this all changed. Recreational marijuana was on the ballot in nine states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota. Three states of these states (AK, FL, ND) were considering whether to legalize medical marijuana, five (AZ, CA, ME, MA, and NV) were voting on recreational use, and Montana was voting on removing some restrictions that were placed on providers of medical marijuana.

On election night, a majority of voters in each of the three states considering legalizing medical marijuana voted to pass the measure and Montana passed its expansion initiative. Voters in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada opted to legalize marijuana as well, with the initiatives winning outright in those states on election night, according to a Washington Post article written that evening. Voters in Arizona decided to reject the measure. Maine had begun a recount of the recreational marijuana measure, but the recount effort was abandoned by opponents of the law this past weekend after it was clear the measure had indeed passed.

According to NPR, this means that "[a]bout 60 percent of Americans now live in a state where cannabis is legal or soon to be legal in some form."

With the increased legalization of marijuana, comes new questions. One of which is, how can law enforcement officers determine if a driver is too high to be behind the wheel? There is currently no quick breath test that officers can use to check a driver's THC levels. But this is changing as well.

In September 2016, U.S. News reported on a company, Hound Labs, that is currently testing out a marijuana breath test device. Like a breathalyzer, the device is designed to detect a substance on a person's breath. But instead of alcohol, it measures "the high-inducing compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) on a smoker's breath." Hound Labs' CEO, Mike Lynn, with the help of a local law enforcement agency, conducted a field test with the devices, pulling over drivers who "were seen driving erratically or had committed a traffic fraction." Drivers were asked if they would voluntarily take a breath test using the Hound Labs device.

The field test was a success. The device was able to detect levels of THC on the breath of driver's who took the test and admitted to smoking marijuana. Though none of the drivers who tested positive were arrested, they "were forced to find another ride home." According to U.S. News, marijuana breathalyzers "will be welcomed by both sides of the pot legalization debate, those who fear drugged drivers and reformers outraged that pot users in some jurisdictions are subjectively detained and forced to undergo blood tests that don't prove impairment, especially in frequent users." Lynn plans to first provide the breath test devices to law enforcement agencies before releasing the device to a wider audience.

It will be interesting to see what method of marijuana detection becomes widely used by law enforcement agencies. Perhaps it will be a breath test, like the one developed by Hound Labs, or perhaps another type of test will prove more effective in detecting marijuana. If you have been arrested for Marijuana DUI, please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Atlanta DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson today.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard S. Lawson is passionate about intoxicated driving defense. Unlike some attorneys, Mr. Lawson devotes 100% of his legal practice to helping people stand up for their rights against DUI charges. For more than 20 years, Mr. Lawson has dutifully fought for his clients' freedom, resolving more 4,900 impaired driving cases during the course of his career. Today, Mr. Lawson has developed a reputation as a skilled negotiator and continues to help clients by fighting to keep them out of jail.


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