Initiative 502, which will be on the November ballot in Washington state, seeks to legalize and regulate marijuana in the state. A prominent complaint about the initiative, however, is that it would create a new DUI standard applicable to those driving while stoned.
In Washington, someone driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher can be cited for driving under the influence. Under the current language of Initiative 502, someone driving with a blood level of five nanograms of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, could also be cited for driving under the influence.
Under current Washington law, drivers may face charges of driving under the influence of drugs if a blood test shows any amount of illegal drugs in their system. Before a driver can be charged with a drug-related DUI, however, an officer must first conduct a breath test to rule out alcohol. A police officer must make a determination once alcohol is thrown out as a deciding factor. A motorist can be detained while the police officers contact an expert and ask that person to come to the scene. The motorist may not be detained for an unreasonable amount of time.
Advocates of the five-nanogram standard argue that a guideline will help drivers and law enforcement officials easily determine when someone has used too much marijuana to safely operate a vehicle. Others say, however, that there is no evidence linking marijuana use to car accidents or vehicle-related deaths. Essentially, the debate boils down to whether marijuana use impairs cognitive functions in the same way that alcohol does.
Source: Q13 FOX News, "Marijuana activists concerned about DUI provisions in legalization initiative," C.R. Douglas, March 19, 2012