When someone is pulled over by police under suspicion of drinking and driving, there are set instructions on how they are to be tested. The officer will most likely ask them to step out of their vehicle and walk several steps in a straight line, ok now try standing on one foot and then say the ABC’s backwards. If they do not perform satisfactory it will result in taking a breathalyzer test. All this factors into whether or not the officer issues a DUI. The testing for driving while under the influence of marijuana however is much more rigorous and the science behind it is still developing.
As stated in Ore. Measure 91 as of July 1 of this year recreational marijuana will be legal in the state. Ashland police are preparing for legalization and are confident that they will be able to handle the change. “Marijuana is fairly inundated in our community already… in Ashland people smoke weed, its not like it’s a new thing,” said Deputy Police Chief Tighe O’meara.
According to the Denver Post one year after the legalization of cannabis in Col. DUI’s involving the drug had risen to just over 12 percent. The marijuana laws in Ore. are similar to that of Col., a person can be given a DUI for driving while high but the process of handing one out is different than that of alcohol. With the impending legalization here in Ore. how will police respond to and test drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana?
“There’s always been a mechanism in place for this,” said O’meara “people (drivers) are tested by drug recognition experts (DRE’s) in order to see if they are under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs or whatever.” O’meara explained that if an officer has a reasonable suspicion, through standardized tests treated similar to that of alcohol, they will call in a trained DRE to determine whether or not the driver is under the influence of marijuana. From there a standard urine or blood test will need to be taken by the driver.
O’meara explains that the tricky thing about marijuana is while companies are currently developing more advanced marijuana breathalyzers, the technology isn’t as developed as those made for detecting blood alcohol level. Current breathalyzer prototypes can detect THC in the user but not the amount in their system. So what kind of penalties will someone convicted of a cannabis DUI face?
According to Ore. state law 813.010 Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants, the penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana vary based off of the number of incidences a person has been convicted of. First time offenders face fines between $1,000-$6,250, a suspended license for at least 30 days and potential jail time between 2 days to a year. A second conviction has the same potential penalties with an additional 60 day suspension of their license. A third will result in a license suspension of up to a year in addition to a minimal fine of $2,000 and a maximum of $6,250. A fourth will result in fines up to $125,000 and potentially 5 years in prison.
It should be noted that while recreational marijuana will be made legal in July of this year there are currently no licenses for dispensaries to sell it recreationally. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will not be handing them out until the end of the year. So if someone wants recreational cannabis they will need to go straight to the grower or receive it from a friend.
For more information on the legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon check out some of our previous articles here:
Weed and You: SOU Experts Weigh In