New Oklahoma Law Makes Any Trace of Marijuana a Possible DUI Offense

 

A recent change in Oklahoma law means that people who smoke marijuana and then drive a motor vehicle even weeks later can be arrested and convicted for driving under the influence.

House Bill 1441, signed into law by Gov. Fallin on May 31, adds a new paragraph to the state law governing DUIs. The language says that it is unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle who “has any amount of a Schedule I chemical or controlled substance … in the person’s blood, saliva, urine or any other bodily fluid…” Schedule 1 substances include marijuana, heroin and LSD.

The penalty for one’s first DUI offense is up to 1 year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

Regarding alcohol, the law requires a blood or breath concentration of 0.08 to be considered DUI, but the law now allows zero tolerance of a driver who has any trace of marijuana in one’s system.

Before the change, it was illegal to drive under the influence “of any intoxicating substance” than “render[ed] such person incapable of safely driving or operating a motor vehicle.” There is now no such requirement to show that a person’s driving ability was actually impaired to obtain a conviction.

Attorney Adam Banner, whose practice includes DUI defense, writes on his law blog that the new law is “ridiculous.”

“This is a ridiculous position to take, and it has received a great deal of backlash from the criminal-defense community. The effects of marijuana are not long lasting, and by no means would there be impairment days, weeks, or months, after infestation or inhalation. … This brings up a ton of issues with interstate travel and due process.”

I think it is important to note, as the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs points out, that marijuana today is up to 30 times stronger (in its concentration of the psychoactive chemical THC) than the pot people were smoking back in the 1960s-1980s.

It is also fair to point out that some opponents of the law may be exaggerating about how long marijuana stays in a person’s system. According to one manufacturer of drug testing equipment, a one-time use of marijuana can be detected in a person’s saliva for up to 12 hours and in one’s urine for up to 6 days. Only frequent and heavy users are likely to have traces of marijuana for several weeks after the last use. And yes, there’s a  concern about frequent and heavy pot smokers climbing behind the wheel of a car.

The states are widely divided in their positions on marijuana use, with Oklahoma clearly on the conservative side of the fence. Eighteen states now allow for the legal use of marijuana for medical reasons, and six more are considering such laws. Meanwhile, 11 states have laws like Oklahoma’s that allow zero tolerance for driving with any trace of marijuana in one’s system.

Interestingly enough, NORML, an organization that promotes the legalization of pot, claims that marijuana is Oklahoma’s 3rd largest cash crop, right behind wheat and hay.

Maybe the most important statistic in this debate is this one from U.S. News and World Report. One in 5 teen drivers admits to driving under the influence of marijuana. Some Oklahoma teens who do not keep up with the news are likely to learn about our state’s new zero-tolerance policy the hard way. I hope not. I encourage parents and educators to spread the word about the new law.

Have you experienced personal injury or the loss of a loved one due to an auto, truck or motorcycle accident that involved drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs or speeding? If so, you need experienced legal representation right away. Contact the Oklahoma car accident lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook immediately for a free consultation.