Rules of the Road: Driving as a Medical Marijuana Card Holder in Colorado

Filed Under (Medical Marijuana) on 11-06-2012

medical marijuana license, medical pot, medical marijuana laws

By Ann Toney, JD, MA

First, let it be said that if you’re driving while drunk or high, you’re committing a crime.
And if you’re pulled over and determined to be driving under the influence, you could have your license revoked, serve mandatory jail time, pay fines and perform hours of community service.

Yet, when it comes to medical marijuana, getting the law to understand that you are not Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUI-D) can be difficult.

Currently, Colorado law has no per se amount of nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) per milliliter of blood as proof of intoxication or impairment.  A per se limit is an absolute limit, like a blood alcohol level. Lawmakers have struggled with setting a limit because nanograms of THC stay in chronic users’ blood long after pot’s medicinal and performance-altering effects have worn off.

Because there’s no “bright legal line”, as we attorneys say, medical marijuana patients may find themselves presumed guilty while being innocent.  You could be pulled over for a simple traffic violation, and – because of the smell or sight of marijuana in your car, or the fact that you carry a red card – find yourself asked to take a roadside test. Or you may be asked to give blood for a blood test, and if you refuse to do that, you will lose your driver’s license for a minimum of one year.

As a lawyer, I am often asked to help clients in this situation. My advice to all medical marijuana patients seeking to avoid DUI-D convictions, is to follow these four simple rules:

•    Don’t medicate and drive: Wait at least four hours after ingesting or smoking marijuana before getting behind the wheel.

•    Don’t smoke in your car.  Regardless of when you last took marijuana, officers can smell it and it arouses suspicion.

•    Don’t tell officers that you have a red card.  They likely won’t ask, and you don’t need to volunteer this information, as it may add to the evidence against you and you can present it later.

•    Don’t submit to voluntary roadside tests.  Many of us can’t complete those tests when stone cold sober, which is fine, except that a poor showing may add to the evidence against you.

Until our community develops an objective measurement of intoxication from marijuana, this issue will remain under debate.  Certainly, nobody should drive while intoxicated, and at the same time, if you are a safe, sober red-card carrying driver, there’s no reason to call attention to yourself and your medical need.

For more information on the regulation of medical marijuana, see Colorado Medical Marijuana Law , by Ann Toney, JD.