Driving while stoned: what are the limits and how detectable is it?
While recreational marijuana has been legal in several states for a few years already, the traffic laws regarding the usage limit while driving are still somewhat blurry. The main problem is that it is still currently unknown what level of THC in the system significantly interferes with one’s ability to drive. There are ways to detect the presence of marijuana in the driver’s system such as sobriety tests that are also used to detect alcohol presence, but without clear guidelines on determining impairment, the decision is left solely to the officer’s judgment.
Unlike drunk driving, driving under the influence of cannabis is much more difficult to detect, or, more exactly, difficult to prove. Alcohol levels in the system are easily detected through the use of a breathalyzer or blood test and thus, the decision is simple and objective – if the alcohol level is above the state limit, the driver gets penalized accordingly. However, such tools don’t exist for marijuana testing. Technically, a blood test can be used to detect the presence of THC in the driver’s system, but without knowing how much exactly is enough to affect the driver’s performance, the test alone doesn’t say much. They also have been proven to be unreliable, when some suspects have been found with low levels of THC, but showing obvious signs of impairment. On the other side, individuals that regularly consume marijuana will have high levels of marijuana stored in their system, but they are perfectly capable to drive. Therefore, the relation between drug concentrations and impairment has been proven to be a lot harder to establish. However, that didn’t stop some states from establishing a threshold for THC. For example, Colorado and Washington set the limit to 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood while Nevada set it as low as 2 nanograms.
Moreover, the THC levels also depend on the method of introducing it in the driver’s system. For example, smoking marijuana is known to raise the THC levels much more quickly than edibles and duration also differs, which makes testing much more complicated.
Also, a suspect goes through several stages before actually having his blood drawn and tested, the whole process usually lasting about 2.5 hours, which means that if a suspect is high when getting pulled over, they won’t be high when they’ll have their blood tested.
In order to solve this problem, several solutions are in development but it will still be a couple of years before we have a usable, viable solution.
The engineers at Stanford have developed a handheld device that tests the THC levels in a suspect’s saliva. In theory, this is a convenient solution, since the device would work very similar to our current breathalyzer device that tests for alcohol concentrations. In practice, the device still needs to undergo a lot more field tests and human trials before even being considered for approval, so we can expect that it will be a couple more years before we’ll see this device on the market.
At the same time, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, are trying to answer the question regarding how much THC is enough to affect an individual ability to drive. Being authorized by the California Legislature and working in close relation with the California Highway Patrol, the study intends to recruit 180 participants that will be administered with different levels of THC through smoking cannabis and then undergo a driving simulation. During the simulation, the study participants will complete field sobriety tests, performance assessments and have bodily fluids drawn and tested. The study aims to detect the level of impairment at different concentration of THC, as well as how long the impairment lasts and how exactly does it evolve over time.
While efforts are definitely being made, we’re still far away from having a competent and accurate system in place which means that, in the meantime, you’re still mostly at the mercy of the officer that pulls you over and his judgment. Of course, the recommendation is to keep smoking and driving separated.
If you’re looking for a safe and fun way to smoke a few joints with your friends while being on the road without the risk of being pulled over and getting charged with a DUI, pretty much ruining your life in the process, have a look at the new and exciting San Diego weed tours. A all In Limo & Party Bus offers a complete marijuana experience that will allow you and your friends the get a taste of the true San Diego marijuana culture while roaming the streets in the back of a luxury party bus.
About the author
Michael Reifeiss is the owner and chauffeur at Aall In Limo & Party Bus, the #1 ranked limo company in San Diego providing both experienced locals and curious tourists with unforgettable party bus weed tours in San Diego since the recreational weed legalization in California. Taking full advantage of the new permissive cannabis laws, Mike’s company offers the ultimate weed experience at an affordable price. Grab your friends and hop on a party bus as they take you on the weed tour of a lifetime!