Is Driving Stoned In Colorado Worse Than Driving Drunk?

The Law Offices of Steven Rodemer

Cannabis has been legal in Colorado for some time, both recreationally and medically. Despite this, driving under the influence of marijuana is not legal. Those who support marijuana argue that driving while high is very different from driving while intoxicated. Despite this, people who drive under the influence of marijuana are subject to the same penalties that they would face after consuming too much alcohol and driving.

A driver who is impaired should never take to the road. Alcohol consumption or the use of legal or illegal drugs can cause impairment or a combination of the two. A driver who is under the influence of a substance, regardless of how it affects them physically or mentally, is at risk. There has long been an understanding of how alcohol impacts your driving, but as marijuana use becomes more acceptable, it is becoming clearer how it may affect individuals while they are driving. Regardless of what state-altering substance you have used, if you have been arrested for a DUI in Colorado, it is imperative that you contact a Colorado DUI lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.

Marijuana Laws In Colorado Associated With Driving

The Colorado Department of Transportation prohibits drivers from driving with 5 nanograms or more of active THC in their bloodstream, the chemical in marijuana that causes intoxication. The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes as well as recreational purposes is included in this category. When a person is suspected of driving under the influence, a chemical test is often performed, but police officers can also make an arrest based on probable cause. An impaired driver may be arrested without a chemical test if they show signs of impairment. Residential and nonresidential drivers in Colorado automatically give consent to these tests when they are either receive their Colorado driver’s license or they decide to operate a vehicle on Colorado roadways. This is often referred to as express consent.

How Marijuana Affects Drivers

Intoxication has a much less severe effect on driving abilities than drinking and driving, according to those in favor of lenient marijuana laws. A study conducted by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) found that marijuana only mildly affects a person’s reflexes and motor skills while driving. Marijuana-impaired drivers were also said to adjust their driving based on their impairment, such as reducing their speed and being more aware of hazards.

In contrast, drunk drivers have long been known to take serious risks behind the wheel, ranging from speeding to disobeying traffic laws. CNN reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Office on National Drug Control Policy, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the marijuana-related driving study. Moreover, the study indicated that some drivers may experience decreased peripheral vision after using marijuana, as well as a tendency to weave within their lane, so there is some evidence of marijuana impairment. As a result of high levels of THC, the ingredient in cannabis that makes you feel high, many driving-related behaviors are impaired, including the ability to weave between lanes and the ability to respond in an emergency situation. While driving, marijuana use can make you feel paranoid, causing a panic attack and making you feel as if everything around you is moving slower than it actually is.

It is also important to note that frequent marijuana users may be charged with marijuana charges, even if they were not impaired at the time of their arrest. Cannabis smokers may have traces of THC in their bodies for several days following their last use according to Leaf Science. Although the effects may vary from person to person, those who use marijuana habitually will have marijuana in their systems for longer periods of time.

Denver and other areas where the use of marijuana is legal are still relatively new to marijuana use and driving. In this regard, it may be confusing for drivers to know how much marijuana they can consume and still legally drive. Having an experienced DUI lawyer review your case can be beneficial if you are facing marijuana DUI charges.

DUI For Marijuana in Colorado

As opposed to alcohol, marijuana does not have a DUI per se. The objective evidence must show that you could not drive safely while under the influence of drugs. You can, however, be inferred to have driven under the influence of marijuana if your blood contains more than 5 nanograms of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the active ingredient in most strains of marijuana.

However, even this amount of THC in the blood cannot be conclusive. DUI and DWAI lawyers in Colorado can challenge the results of a blood test in court. The prosecutor must prove that you were actually too stoned to drive safely in order to prove that you were guilty of DUI of marijuana. An example of such evidence would be:

  • The violation of Colorado traffic laws
  • Weaving in and out of a lane
  • Speeding or operating the vehicle too slow
  • Appearance of being stoned (bloodshot eyes, slurred speech)
  • A police officer smells marijuana coming from the car
  • Marijuana paraphernalia is present in the vehicle
  • Marijuana itself is found in the vehicle

It’s important to note that medical marijuana registry cards do not by themselves give officers the authority to request a blood test based solely on the fact that you hold one. In addition, it cannot form part of the prosecution’s case against you.

Penalties For Marijuana DUI In Colorado

Marijuana DUIs in Colorado have the same consequences as alcohol DUIs. Additionally, Colorado DWAI marijuana penalties are the same as those for Colorado DWAI alcohol penalties. Those who are convicted of a marijuana DUI or DWAI can face penalties such as:

  • A jail sentence (especially if you have a prior drunk/drugged driving conviction)
  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Loss of driver’s license
  • If you get your license back, you will have to install an interlock ignition device
  • Increased insurance costs due to required SR22 insurance plan after DUI conviction

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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