A new bill introduced in the senate would help protect drivers who use medical cannabis.
The establishment of Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana program has given rise to concerns about the state's DUI law, which currently does not offer any protections for medical marijuana patients. Authorities can file a DUI charge against an individual if their bloodstream contains as little as 1 ng/ml of Delta-9 THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana) even if they are not showing any observable signs of impairment.
"Per Se" Marijuana DUI Law in Pennsylvania
Medical marijuana is legal in many states, but cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law. In Pennsylvania, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal, just like with alcohol. However, the situation is more complex because, unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the body system for weeks.
Pennsylvania laws regarding DUIs differ significantly when comparing alcohol and marijuana. For alcohol-related DUIs, a "per se" rule applies only when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. This means that as long as a person is tested to be above this limit, impairment doesn't have to be proven. All authorities need is evidence of a person driving, operating, or being in control of a motor vehicle to charge them with a DUI. Meanwhile, a person with a BAC less than 0.08% can still be convicted of a DUI, but ONLY if there is evidence that they are physically or mentally impaired.
In contrast, marijuana-related DUIs do not ever require proof of actual impairment. Unlike alcohol, there is no established legal limit for cannabis blood concentration in Pennsylvania so the "per se" rule applies in cases where there is even the smallest detectable amount of THC in the blood. If authorities see a person's medical marijuana patient identification, they could technically have sufficient cause/reasonable grounds to administer a chemical test, leading to potential DUI charges no matter how small the amount is in the bloodstream. This discrepancy highlights the differences in how the state handles DUIs involving alcohol and marijuana, with marijuana regulations being less clear-cut and potentially more challenging for both drivers and law enforcement.
But Wait, There's Hope!
Senate Bill 363 (Formerly Senate Bill 167)
Last year, Senator Bartolotta introduced a bill to legislation to reduce patients' wrongful convictions using medical marijuana as prescribed. Unfortunately this bill, SB167, recently ran out of time to pass. Luckily, it was just reintroduced as #SB363 on 02/21/23.
The bill proposes to add two new subsections to Section 3802, which pertains to driving under the influence of marijuana. The proposed subsections would require proof of actual impairment for medical marijuana patients to be charged with a DUI. Possession of a medical marijuana patient identification card would no longer suffice to establish probable cause or reasonable grounds for a chemical test. Authorities would need to use standardized field sobriety tests or drug recognition experts to determine impairment.
#SB363 Provides Protection for Medical Marijuana Program Drivers
As Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program continues to expand, concerns over driving under the influence of marijuana have become more prevalent. Medical marijuana can effectively treat many medical conditions, but it is crucial to use it responsibly and avoid driving while under the influence. Senate Bill 363 is aimed at helping Pennsylvania's MMJ patients - protecting them from being subjected to unlawful testing without showing signs of impairment. If passed, #SB363 would give significant protections to medical marijuana card holders from unfair DUI charges in PA.
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