Driving Under the Influence: Why Medical Marijuana and Driving Laws Don’t Mix

As of today, 29 of the 50 states in the country have legalized medicinal marijuana, with 9 states, including California, and the District of Columbia also allowing recreational use. Since the push for widespread legalization in 2016, there have been questions about how the acceptance of marijuana use would affect national and statewide culture, including day-to-day activities. In California, one of the most practical and important considerations for the effects of marijuana use is how it has affected driving and the amount of DUIs being issued by police.

A recent survey showed that almost half of Americans believed it was safe to drive while under the influence of cannabis. Yet organizations like the World Health Organization say that cannabis impairs many brain functions that are essential to safe driving, such as motor and cognitive skills, balance, mood, and time estimation. WHO also estimated that 22% of drug-related road traffic deaths were caused by cannabis use.

This is likely why California treats driving under the influence of marijuana almost the same as drunk driving. If you are caught driving while stoned, you may be fined up to $1,000, serve jail time, have your license suspended, and be required to attend California DUI education programs. And all of this can happen to you on your first offense.

Consuming alcohol and marijuana may both be legal in our state, but before you even think about drinking or smoking prior to getting behind the wheel, stop and think about the consequences of driving under the influence for yourself, your passengers, and the people on the road.