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What's the Legal Limit for Driving While High?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

With few exceptions, every state set the blood-alcohol bar for drunk driving at .08 percent. And most state alcohol consumption laws are similar, as well. But states are, pardon the pun, all over the map when it comes to marijuana enforcement, ranging from therapeutic CBD oil use only in severe medical cases to legalized recreational use. So it's only natural that state laws regarding marijuana-involved drugged driving offenses would vary as well.

California, which just legalized it starting this year, also announced it would eschew a standard THC limit on high driving. So how do cops know when a driver is too high?

Golden State Sobriety

While other states, like Colorado and Washington, altered their driving under the influence laws to account for legalized weed, California is keeping its current DUI scheme as recreational marijuana sales begin this month. In the Golden State you can be convicted of a DUI even if you don't have a .08 BAC, if police determine you are under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.

That determination takes into account the totality of the evidence, including an officer's initial evaluation of a suspect's driving, their appearance, field sobriety tests, and, ultimately, the conclusion of a trained officer. While California officers can consider blood test results in charging a DUI, there will be no legal limit for THC as there is with alcohol.

"Basically, it's pretty well acknowledged that an actual impairment level from marijuana has not been established," according to assistant director of the California Office of Traffic Safety Chris Cochran told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's not as simple as it is with alcohol, where it pretty much reacts the same from person to person."

State DWHigh Laws

Under Washington law, anyone whose blood contains more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter within two hours of driving can be convicted of a DUI. And while Colorado allows a jury to infer that a driver with more than 5 nanograms of THC in their system was under the influence, a defendant can successfully argue in court that they weren't impaired. And Oregon also shunned a strict THC limit in favor of a 12-step test for evaluating impairment.

DUI laws and charges can vary significantly from state to state. If you've been charged with a marijuana-related driving offense, contact a local DUI attorney.

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