The 411 on Marijuana use and Driving in Oregon

Written by Reynolds Defense Firm

On September 22, 2017

As of July 1, 2015, recreational marijuana use became legal in Oregon, with, of course, some pretty big exceptions.  One thing that hasn’t changed though are Oregon’s DUI laws – just like with alcohol, you can be arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana, and for years now the Reynolds Defense Firm has helped good people charged with marijuana-based DUI’s.   When legalization occurred in Colorado, they had a huge jump in marijuana DUIs.  Here in Oregon, the increase in drivers accused of driving impaired due to marijuana use was about 38% more than prior to legalization.

If you are someone who hasn’t used marijuana for a while, say since college for example, let me share this: most all of us know how one drink makes us feel, but we may not have that same cause and effect understanding with marijuana. So, if you choose to use, get some munchies and have a great time – just be aware that you could be more affected than you expected.  For those who choose to use, the questions we hear most often from clients are:

How do I make sure I am ok to drive?

Every person is different, and there are many varieties and strengths of  marijuana. The best practice in determining whether you are ok to drive is to simply avoid driving if you have consumed marijuana in the last 24 hours.  There is no one test for drug impairment like the Breathalyzer test is used to determine alcohol DUII.  Most jurisdictions in Oregon use specially trained officers, called Drug Recognition Evaluators (DRE) to administer a twelve step test to help make the decision to move forward with a drug DUI arrest.

How long should I wait after I have smoked marijuana before I can drive legally?

Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact answer to this question. Every person is different and there are many varieties and strengths of marijuana. There is no precise timing involved other than, under the law, you should not drive if you are “adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree.” A good rule of thumb is if you have smoked marijuana, you should not be making a decision for yourself or others about your ability to safely drive. If there is a question as to whether you should or should not drive, the safer option is always not to drive. While it may seem extreme, police scientists have testified in Oregon that the impairing effects of marijuana can last up to 24 hours after consuming.

What tests are used to determine if I’m impaired after using marijuana?

There is not a single test that gives you a yes or no answer. When police investigate a possible DUII for controlled substances they administer multiple tests to create a bigger picture for them to work with. This can include checking your pulse rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, as well as testing your balance and ability to follow instructions. Police often test your eyes to see if the pupils are reacting normally in different lighting conditions.

Some officers will testify that a person under the influence of marijuana will have a difficult time in crossing their eyes (to check this, an officer will have you follow his finger with your eyes as he moves it in a circular pattern for a brief time and then bring his finger to the bridge of your nose – he is looking to see if your eyes are able to cross at that point), however, this test is far from perfect.

To learn more about marijuana-based DUIs and Measure 91, please visit our FAQ page on our website.

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