Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, but it is not legal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Unlike with alcohol, there is no reliable breath test that can show whether a driver is presently under the influence of marijuana, which has led many states, including Pennsylvania, to penalize drivers who test positive for having any marijuana in their system at all. One state senator is trying to change this law for medical marijuana users.
In Pennsylvania, an individual can be found guilty of a DUI if there is any marijuana in his or her blood; the Commonwealth does not need to show that the driver was adversely affected by the marijuana while driving. This means that marijuana users could be stopped for “probable cause” and then blood tested and found guilty of a crime even if they had not consumed marijuana for days or even weeks. To solve this problem, a bill in the Pennsylvania Senate would change the zero-tolerance penalty of a DUI for anyone with a medical marijuana card.
At least one District Attorney in Pennsylvania believes that the existing DUI law is problematic. One police chief suggests that the DUI law is meant to target medical marijuana users who believe they are legally entitled to drive under the influence of marijuana, but he did not address the potential injustice for medical marijuana users who have marijuana in their blood but who had not used marijuana prior to driving.
Another police chief said that his precinct’s policy is to only test a driver’s breath or blood if impairment is suspected; he opposes the bill. The police chief added that he believes individuals who hold medical marijuana cards should not drive at all. This statement is telling of the bias that officers may have against medical marijuana users and highlights the importance of consulting with a criminal defense attorney upon being charged with a