Pennsylvania’s legislative bodies have passed bills designed to help medical marijuana users avoid charges of driving under the influence when there is no evidence that their ability to operate a vehicle has been impaired. Currently, any trace of marijuana in someone’s bloodstream can trigger a DUI prosecution. Lawmakers of both parties have supported this legislation and other efforts to protect the rights of state residents who are taking cannabis as prescribed by their doctor. 

Supporters of the changes note that despite the fact that marijuana was legalized for medical use here in 2016, it retains its classification as a Schedule I controlled substance, along with highly dangerous drugs that have no accepted medical benefits. THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, can show up on a blood test for weeks after consumption. This means that someone could face criminal DUI charges even though they were experiencing no potentially hazardous effects at the time.   

If enacted, the revised law could have a strong impact on how DUI cases and other matters involving medical marijuana are treated in Pennsylvania courts. Another proposed law allows people taking cannabis under a doctor’s care to possess firearms. Establishing a legal limit for THC levels could streamline legal proceedings by providing a clear standard for determining impairment and facilitating fairer and more consistent enforcement of applicable laws. Additionally, the bill may prompt changes in law enforcement practices and training related to detecting and assessing marijuana impairment in drivers and other individuals.

Even under the proposed law, individuals using medical marijuana lawfully under the state's medical cannabis program could still face DUI charges if they are found to be operating a vehicle while impaired by the drug. However, the proposed legislation seeks to establish a threshold for THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, in a driver's bloodstream. If passed, the bill would create a legal limit for THC levels similar to the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for alcohol in DUI cases.

The establishment of a THC threshold could provide clarity for medical marijuana users regarding acceptable levels of impairment and help protect their rights in DUI cases. However, determining a standard that accurately reflects impairment levels without unduly penalizing medical marijuana patients is a complex task. Additionally, questions may arise regarding the reliability and accuracy of roadside testing methods for detecting THC levels in drivers.

If you have been accused of driving under the influence due to prescribed cannabis or any other reason, your first step should be hiring an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer. At Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law in Somerset, I provide strong legal representation to clients from Somerset, Indiana, Bedford and Cambria counties. Please call 814-443-1631 or contact me online for an appointment.