Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Washington State in 2012, there have been a lot of attention on it, as well as many misconceptions and mistruths.
Just because pot is legal doesn’t mean it is unrestricted. Washingtonians should be aware of the regulations and controls in place around “legalization of recreational marijuana”.
Understanding the law:
- Marijuana DUI: There are specific laws around driving under the influence of marijuana.
- There is a legal impairment limit. The legal “per se” limit is 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of whole blood (5 ng/mL)
- It is illegal to drive with more THC than this in your system RCW 46.61.502 (link)
- Prior to marijuana legalization, there was no per se limit of THC and in order to prove a Marijuana DUI, actual impairment had to be proven. Now that there is a legal limit, the burden of proving impairment no longer exists, in many cases making it easier to be convicted of a Marijuana DUI than it was previously
- For those convicted of a Marijuana DUI, the same penalties apply as for alcohol DUI convictions. Penalties can include jail time, fines, and license suspension or revocation. If you are convicted of a DUI it will remain on your record and could present issues with employment prospects, immigration, or for criminal background checks.
- Other facts about marijuana laws:
- In Washington State, people 21 and over can possess up to an ounce of marijuana (usable/dried). People 21 and over may also possess 16 ounces of marijuana-infused solid products or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid products.
- It is not legal:
- For anyone under 21 years old to possess marijuana
- To grow marijuana
- To smoke or display marijuana in public
- To sell marijuana
- For people 21 and over to possess greater than one ounce
- The charges for marijuana possession depend on the amount you are caught with. (RCW 69.50.4014)
- Possession with intent to distribute marijuana carries more serious penalties. You can be charged with intent to distribute or sell even with a small quantity.
What to do if you are pulled over for Marijuana DUI:
Being stopped by law enforcement and under suspicion of driving under the influence of Marijuana can be a frightening experience. If this happens to you:
- Be polite to the law enforcement officer who contacts you
- Do not answer any questions about where you are coming from, whether you smoked or otherwise consumed alcohol or marijuana, or anything else
- Politely decline ALL voluntary tests, including any field sobriety tests
- Ask to speak to an attorney immediately
These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.