Monday, January 7, 2019

Lax Marijuana Laws Have Given Motorists the Wrong Impression

THC DUIs Carry the Same Legal Punishment as Driving Drunk

By Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

President, Blais Insurance 

Driving under the influence of marijuana can carry the same legal consequences as drunk driving. That is what several people are learning the hard way over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday break.  Although research on traffic fatalities and marijuana usage remain scant, marijuana users face a tougher battle if a police officer suspects the driver is under the influence. As more states opt to legalize the use of marijuana, Blais Insurance would like to shed light on the process of being charged with a THC DUI and the insurance repercussions that would entail.

Unlike testing for alcohol, marijuana usage is typically determined by a blood or urine test. This poses an immediate road block for law enforcement officers who are trying to determine whether someone is high at traffic stops.

Motorists who are simply suspected of being under the influence of marijuana in Rhode Island can be asked to submit to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test, which usually spells trouble even for the casual marijuana users because THC can remain in someone’s blood for weeks or months.

If THC turns up in the BAC, motorists will be charged with a DUI regardless of whether you were sober at the time of the stop. Depending on the circumstances of the first offence, motorists could be forced to pay up to $500, may be required to serve up to 60 hours of community service, and could have their license suspended for a period of up to 1 year.

Research around marijuana and car crashes have created conflicting results about the risk of being involved in a car accident, but medical experts agree that it is always safer to drive while you are not stoned. The reason is because marijuana impairs judgement, motor coordination, and reaction time, which the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated are all essential skills needed to safely operate a motor vehicle.

After motorists come to terms with their DUI ruling, insurance companies typically catch wind of the developments when your policy is up for renewal. This is when insurance premiums are increased by a few hundred dollars on average to thousands of dollars in certain parts of the country. The increased rate is usually a reflection of the risk a motorist may present for any insurance provider.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies are taking proactive approaches to this issue by seeking training from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recognize signs of marijuana use. Even medical marijuana users could face tough penalties if they are caught driving while under the influence of marijuana, experts warn.

As the country’s marijuana laws continue to evolve, Blais Insurance encourages motorists to treat marijuana the same way you would treat alcohol when it comes to driving. Even if you smoked once, stay at home to avoid the avalanche of legal and insurance-related troubles that could come your way.