A court in Massachusetts recently held that law enforcement in the state is still able to arrest individuals for driving under the influence of marijuana if signs of the impairment are visible. This decision comes at a time when more retail marijuana stores are opening up throughout the state. The ruling came from a case involving a driver who was arrested on the Massachusetts Turnpike after he was pulled over by Massachusetts law enforcement for driving 80 mph as well as tailgating other vehicles.
At the time of the accident, there were two other passengers in the vehicle, and law enforcement detected a strong odor of marijuana emanating from inside of the vehicle. A jury later acquitted the man on the drugged driving and firearm possession charges, but did find that the man was guilty of a drug possession charge. The man later appealed the arrest based on law enforcement’s search of the vehicle, which led to discovery of oxycodone, cocaine, and a firearm.
The appellate court, however, held that the initial arrest for driving while under the influence of marijuana was lawful. In reaching its opinion, the court noted that it can be difficult to determine marijuana impairment because there are not any validated field sobriety tests.
Even though recreational use of marijuana is now legal in the state of Massachusetts, driving while high on marijuana is still prohibited, even if the drug has been prescribed to a person by a doctor. The prosecution, however, often has a difficult time pursuing operating under the influence (OUI) charges because there is not an accepted standard for cannabis or THC impairment. The following is a brief examination of how these charges are treated in the state of Massachusetts.
Why Testing for OUI of Marijuana is Challenging
As of January 2019, no one has been able to create a test that can reliably detect the presence of marijuana in the bloodstream. Some of the factors that make it particularly difficult to test for marijuana impairment:
THC in marijuana is stored in a person’s fat cells where the substance can remain for a significant period of time, sometimes long after the driver has used marijuana.
Not only does law enforcement need to worry about the presence of marijuana on a person’s breath, drivers can also consume edible products containing marijuana.
The effects of THC on a person vary substantially based on the physiology of individual in question.
Secondhand marijuana smoke has the potential to create a contact high in people who do not smoke. Even if a device could be created to detect the presence of marijuana in individuals, there is a risk that people exposed to secondhand smoke would be deemed intoxicated through no fault of their own.
Speak with an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are charged with a marijuana-related offense in Massachusetts, the resulting penalties can be serious. To avoid the numerous potential penalties, contact an experienced drug crime defense attorney. Schedule an initial free case evaluation with Attorney Edward Molari today for assistance.