Washington's new marijuana law has gotten rave reviews from many people, but a legislative work session proves that there are still many details to iron out. State troopers are still learning the ins and outs of the new law, under which adults who are 21 or older are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Police will still rely on blood testing to determine intoxication, just as they do with alcohol. However, they will likely face some challenges along the way.
For the most part, the protocol for determining intoxication will stay the same. Police officers may first notice erratic driving - weaving, speeding or sudden stops, for instance - and then pull over the driver. The officer can then ask the driver to submit to a blood or breath test. Officers must then look at the entire situation before determining intoxication.
Although blood testing will be used most often, it poses a problem for police officers in rural areas. The test must be done within a few hours, before THC levels decrease. This means that police officers must be able to administer a blood test quickly.
Smoking marijuana while driving should be illegal, but, under the Washington law, it technically isn't. Surprisingly enough, drinking alcohol while driving would get someone arrested, but there is no law prohibiting smoking marijuana while driving. Police may closely monitor any person they see smoking and look for signs of impairment, but as long as the driver is under the legal limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, police cannot make an arrest or file charges.
Washington does have strict penalties for a DUI charge, however. A person convicted of a DUI can have their license suspended and vehicle impounded. The arrestee may also be forced to attend a substance abuse program and have an ignition interlock device put on their vehicle. Although marijuana usage laws are still fuzzy in Washington, it is best for drivers to avoid using marijuana and for those who use the drug to avoid driving.
Source: OregonLive.com, "Washington's pot law leaves loose ends for drivers," Anna Marum, Feb. 6, 2013