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Medical marijuana challenging DUI enforcement

It has been a year since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana. However, drivers who are authorized to use medical marijuana must take precautions or they may face driving under the influence or other drug charges. Patients should always carry their medical marijuana cards with them when they drive. This will allow police to treat them the same as other drivers who are taking legally-prescribed drugs. However, drivers using prescription drugs or medical marijuana may be arrested for driving under the influence if they drive when they are impaired from these drugs.

Marijuana is more complicated, however. Its active ingredient is THC, which makes people high and can remain in a user's system for up to 30 days. Current law treats it as other illegal drugs and allows prosecution if it shows up in a person's system following a blood test regardless of the time that elapsed since the person used it. Unlike breathalyzer tests for suspected drunk drivers, a positive test also does not demonstrate that the driver is impaired.

There are concerns that police will unknowingly arrest drivers even though they are not impaired when marijuana shows up in a test. Prosecutors are calling for new laws that set standards and criteria for determining whether a person is actually impaired from medical marijuana and treating it the same as prescription drugs.

One member of the medical marijuana advisory board is advocating for a new law that would set impairment standards. Co-sponsors are being sought for this proposal in the State Senate. A user of recreational or medical marijuana should know their legal options following a drug stop. There may be serious consequences if a person's rights are not protected and evidence is not challenged.

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