In 2014, the state of Oregon legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older to purchase. While this means that the residents of Deschutes county can enjoy this plant on their own time and in their own home, some laws prohibit the use of the substance outside of these circumstances.
As leading DUI attorneys in Deschutes county, we often get questions from clients and curious citizens about whether a DUI is just for alcohol-related cases. We want everyone in the Bend area to drive safely and enjoy their cannabis legally, so we put together this quick guide on the laws surrounding marijuana and DUIs.
Oregon Uses a Different Definition of DUI
Rather than simply calling it a DUI, the state of Oregon uses the DUII definition. “Driving under the influence of intoxicants” allowed lawmakers to recognize that you could become intoxicated from a variety of substances, not just alcohol. This made it easy to charge offenders appropriately.
How is Marijuana Different From Alcohol?
Our understanding of how alcohol affects the human body is much deeper than our understanding of how marijuana affects it. That’s because there’s been much more research devoted to the effects of alcohol than marijuana.
Studies have found that alcohol affects the body in different ways based on factors like weight, age, and gender. While everyone reacts differently to it, it’s generally accepted that your blood-alcohol content drops by 0.015 percent after about an after your last drink. In the state of Oregon, the legal BAC limit is 0.08, meaning it can take more than five hours for someone to process all of the alcohol in their system before they can safely drive.
But the psychoactive compounds within marijuana called THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, affect us far differently. Interestingly, most studies note that the effects of marijuana are most pronounced after the compounds have faded from detection. But what does that mean? A study conducted by the British government in 2000 found that blood levels of THC peaked about 10 minutes after an individual stops smoking. But the effects weren’t fully felt until 30 minutes later. This is despite the fact that the levels of THC in the blood had dropped by more than 75 percent in some individuals.
The factors that determine how the body processes cannabis compounds like THC are similar to the factors that affect how we process alcohol. Your age, gender, and body weight all play a factor. There are additional factors like lifestyle, genetic makeup, and more. Ultimately, more research will need to be done to start to get an accurate understanding of how THC affects the human body.
How are Law Enforcement Officers Catching “Stoned” Drivers?
Oregon law enforcement officers have received updated training to teach them how to identify drivers who are under the influence of marijuana. In much the same way they spot and pull over drunk drivers, they look for erratic and suspicious driving behavior like swerving, speeding, or delayed starts and stops.
Once the driver is pulled over, the officer looks for more obvious signs of impairment, like bloodshot eyes, slightly protruding veins in the neck, the smell of marijuana smoke, or the presence of paraphernalia. From there, the officer might carry a conversation with the suspect to measure their reactions or see if they confess to using marijuana before driving.
If the officer determines that the driver is intoxicated, they can make an arrest and press charges from there.
Is There a Breathalyzer for Marijuana?
There’s no fast way to test for levels of THC in the blood the same way there is for BAC. To get the most accurate results, law enforcement officers would have to run a blood test on the suspect. However, the state of Oregon will only collect blood samples in the case of fatal or near-fatal accidents, as they are costly, and not as precise as some would like.
In other cases, suspects may be asked to participate in a urine test. While this can reliably determine if there is THC in someone’s blood, the test shows if the person has used marijuana at any time in the last 30 days, making it an inefficient way to determine if someone was high at a certain time.
What are the Penalties for Driving Stoned?
First-time DUII offenders can face a class A misdemeanor, up to one year of jail time, a fine of at least $1,000, and even driving restrictions. Driving while under the influence is also a Class B traffic violation, which results in another fine of up to $1,000.
Further offenses will accrue more serious penalties. If an individual is charged with their third DUI in a 10 year period, they will face a class C felony, five years of jail time, and a permanent revocation of driving rights.
The Best Way to Avoid a Marijuana DUII in Oregon
Simply put, it’s best to avoid using marijuana any time before you need to operate a vehicle. If you want to use a marijuana product, it’s best to wait to drive for several hours. If you need to drive somewhere within three to four hours of using a marijuana product, you’ll want to make sure that you no longer feel the mental or physical effects. Be aware, however, that your perception of your level of intoxication may not be accurate since marijuana can alter your perceptions.
If you are pulled over and are suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana, decline to any searches, invoke your right to remain silent and request to speak with one of our attorneys immediately.
Bend’s Trusted DUI Attorneys
If you’re facing DUI charges in Bend or Deschutes county, it’s important to get legal representation immediately. With years of experience, and the results to back it up, our law firm can aggressively defend you in court. We can guide you through court proceedings, assist you with DUII diversions, and help get your license back after a suspension.
Don’t delay. Connect with our DUI attorneys today and schedule your consultation.