As medical marijuana has been legalized in Pennsylvania for over a year, Pennsylvania state police are calling for updates to the drunk driving and DUI laws to reflect the current situation. Throughout the state, dispensaries will soon be operating to provide medical marijuana to people with a prescription. Police have expressed their concerns that people with legitimate cannabis prescriptions could get DUI charges, even if they are not intoxicated or unsafe to drive.
In York County, drunk driving charges for alcohol are down significantly; however, DUI charges based on being under the influence of drugs have gone up. Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, this ostensibly means that there is no medical purpose for the drug's use; someone with any amount of cannabis in their system could be charged with DUI rather than only those people who are too intoxicated to drive. Police spokespeople emphasized that even in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, the amount given for the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is extremely small. Driving with more than 1 nanogram of THC per milliliter of blood is considered DUI.
However, police noted that this amount will be exceeded by people who are consuming medical marijuana with a legitimate prescription who are not intoxicated. Any recent marijuana use at all could put people at risk of DUI charges. Instead, police are urging a legislative change that establishes specific tolerances for marijuana rather than allowing it to remain classified as a Schedule I drug for DUI purposes.
People who are facing drunk driving charges for alcohol, marijuana or other drugs are at risk of severe penalties and a long-lasting criminal record. A criminal defense attorney may work to provide a strong defense to DUI charges, challenging weaknesses in the case against the defendant and working to protect their client's interests.