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Have DUI Laws Changed from Legal Marijuana?

Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation in 2019, making Illinois the 11th State in the union to legalize marijuana for adult use. The law went into effect on January 1st, 2020, and the Rockford area has a legal weed dispensary on Perryville Road. There is no need for medical use designation, as long as you’re over 21 years of age in Illinois. But, that doesn’t mean you can drive under the influence of marijuana. In this article, I’m going to discuss the laws of safe driving, the statistics behind marijuana use, and how police implement roadside testing for marijuana use while driving.

What are the DUI laws?

According to the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, there are three types of substances you can’t consume and safely drive on the roadway.  

  • Alcohol – Drinking and driving is the number one killer on American roadways. Alcohol blurs vision, slows reaction times, and causes drowsiness – a lethal combination when behind the wheel.
  • Marijuana – While marijuana does impair driving abilities – such as reaction time and focus. There aren’t sufficient data that shows driving while under the effects of marijuana increases traffic accidents. That said, it’s always safer to drive with no impairment; therefore, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while high.
  • Other drugs – Both prescribed drugs (like pain medicine) and unprescribed street drugs can impair driving. Each situation of other drug use is taken on a case-by-case basis since there is a wide array of legal issues and side-effects.

What does this mean for marijuana use while driving? Well, simply put, it is illegal to transport marijuana without a container, and it is illegal to use marijuana in a motor vehicle. You must be over the age of 21, and (while this may be a vague law), you cannot be ‘near someone under the age of 21.’

What are some statistics about marijuana and driving?

Researchers found in a June 2019 study in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence that people who use vaporized marijuana were more likely to weave while driving. However, this testing only proved that weaving within their lane was more likely. In a 2010 study in the Journal of Public Health reports found that 11% of drivers killed in accidents were under the effect of at least one drug. The report doesn’t indicate which drugs were used, but that alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, and street drugs were all lumped into this report. Without inferring too much from this data set, it would conclude that at least some portion of driving under the influence of marijuana can be deadly.

In contrast, according to a 1993 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, people who are under the influence of marijuana tend to be more risk-averse and overestimate their impairment, so they slow down and drive more safely.

How to cops test for driving under the influence of marijuana?

Roadside testing is the holy grail of legal marijuana for recreational use. As the law stands today, five nanograms per milliliter of THC in a blood test will slap you with a DUI. Five nanograms is barely any use, and even worse, it stays in your blood from 7-30 days – meaning there is no way to know if you consumed weed before/during driving or days prior. This makes developing roadside testing so much more important. Also, if you refuse to allow a blood test, you will have your drivers’ license suspended for six months.

Police currently look for visual clues to the person’s influence of pot. Red eyes, smelling like weed, and a ‘high’ composure. New technology is being developed every day. Carol Stream is implementing a saliva test that can predict accuracy up to 90% of the time.

MacCloskey Kesler and Associates Safe Driving Advocates

No matter what your preference, we can all agree that the roads need to be safer. Too many deaths, injuries, and financial damages occur every year. Do not use marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs while driving. Not only will you receive a DUI, ruining your life and the lives of your family around you. But, you will probably end up hurting yourself or others. If you have been a victim of an accident by a drunk or impaired driver, call us at (815) 965-2000 right away.