Medical marijuana has made a huge difference in the lives of many Illinois residents who live with debilitating conditions and intractable pain. If you are a registered medical cannabis user and drive regularly, here are a few things you should know to avoid trouble with the law, including being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
Rules for Transportation of Medical Marijuana
In your car, handle your medical marijuana like open-container alcohol. Medical cannabis should be sealed in a tamper-evident container and kept in an area that is inaccessible while the vehicle is in motion. Illinois law allows patients to access 2.5 ounces of cannabis every 14 days, so be sure any amounts you carry are within the legal limit. Remember to renew your medical marijuana card before it expires and have your current registry card (issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health) with you in your vehicle. If you have a designated caregiver who brings you cannabis, make sure they are aware of these rules.
Your Medical Cannabis Status Is on Your Driving Record
If you are pulled over by the police for any reason, the officer will typically take your driver’s license and pull up your driving record on their in-car computer. This will show them that you are a medical cannabis cardholder. Keep that in mind when answering any questions. If asked questions about your use of cannabis, you are not legally required to answer, and anything you say could later be used against you.
DUI Rules are Different for Medical Cannabis Cardholders
For most Illinois drivers, the legal limit for marijuana is 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of whole blood or 10 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of other bodily substance (e.g., saliva). Anyone testing over those limits will be charged with DUI and have their driver’s license suspended. Medical cannabis cardholders, however, are not subject to these chemical test standards.
Medical cannabis users can still be charged with and convicted of driving under the influence, and your right to use medical marijuana is not a valid defense for driving while impaired by marijuana. The police simply use evidence other than chemical testing to make their case that you were driving while impaired.
If you are stopped by the police, it is up to the officer to determine if there is reasonable cause to suspect that you are driving impaired. Examples of reasonable cause might include erratic driving, a smell of marijuana on your person, or the presence of marijuana in plain sight in your vehicle.
If the officer has reason to suspect DUI, he will ask you to submit to field sobriety testing. While other drivers can refuse field sobriety testing, medical cannabis cardholders cannot.
If you refuse or fail the field sobriety tests, your driver’s license will be suspended, just as if you tested over .08 on a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test. This statutory summary suspension can be imposed regardless of whether you are ultimately convicted of DUI, although it can be challenged (consult an attorney immediately to challenge a suspension).
If you fail the field sobriety tests, this does not necessarily mean you will ultimately be convicted of DUI. There are many possible defenses to a DUI charge, and an experienced local DUI attorney can advise you of your best course of action. A DUI conviction can impact your life for years, resulting in fines, jail time, higher insurance rates, loss of driving privileges, revocation of your medical cannabis card, and other consequences.
Lastly, if you drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, the usual standards for alcohol and drug DUI will be applied.
Trust an Experienced Joliet Marijuana and DUI Defense Attorney
If you are a registered user of medical cannabis in Illinois, and you have been charged with DUI, illegal transportation, or another offense related to your use of medical marijuana, you deserve the best defense. Consult a Will County DUI Defense lawyer with experience in marijuana-related violations, one who will aggressively defend your rights and advocate for you to get the best possible resolution of your case. Call the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a free and confidential consultation; phone calls are answered 24 hours a day.