Medical Marijuana and DUIs in Florida
Florida is set to vote in November on medical marijuana. If the amendment passes and medical marijuana becomes legal, there could be an increase in DUI arrests for drivers that police officers think are under the influence of marijuana. Let’s answer some questions about marijuana and DUI’s.
If I’ve been pulled over after smoking medical marijuana does that mean I’ll automatically be charged with a DUI?
Not necessarily. In the event of a Marijuana DUI arrest the prosecutor will still have to prove that you’ve smoked marijuana and that your normal faculties are impaired.
The law in Florida says this:
The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired.
So it’s not enough to just show that you’ve smoked medical marijuana.
How will the police test me to see if my normal faculties are impaired?
Think about this – under Florida law it isn’t a crime to drink alcohol and drive – it’s a crime to drink alcohol to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired and then drive. For a police officer to arrest you for an alcohol DUI he has to have probable cause to believe you’ve committed the crime, something he determines through observing your driving, your physical symptoms (bloodshot glassy eyes, odor of alcohol, slurred speech), and by having you perform field sobriety exercises.
If medical marijuana is legalized then a stop for a marijuana DUI will likely be conducted in the same way. The officer will observe you, and if he believes that you are impaired from marijuana, will ask you to perform field sobriety exercises. Some companies have even developed a machine to test saliva to determine the presence of marijuana in a person’s system.
Will I be able to smoke my medical marijuana while I drive?
Probably not. Although there’s currently not a specific law against it (because it’s illegal to possess marijuana anywhere, even in your car), if the medical marijuana amendment passes the Florida legislature will probably amend the open container law to include marijuana.
If the medical marijuana amendment passes this fall, many Floridians will be susceptible to a marijuana DUI arrest. Treating medical marijuana the same way as alcohol (don’t drive if you’ve had too much, call a cab, or have someone drive you) is the easiest way to prevent a marijuana DUI arrest. If you do get charged with a marijuana DUI, consult with an attorney to better understand your rights.