Weed May be Legal, but Driving High Can Still be a Buzzkill

February 12, 2016

While New York has recently legalized medical marijuana in very specific circumstances, Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (DWAI-Drugs) is still very much illegal and still prosecuted.
Under New York law, you can be prosecuted for DWAI-Drugs if you are driving and your ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired to ANY extent by the use of drugs. That means if you fail to obey a traffic law (observed by a police officer) or fail a field sobriety test after the stop, that’s evidence that you’re impaired and you’ll likely get arrested. If you then consent to providing a sample of your blood or urine for testing (which is currently the only way NY tests for the presence of marijuana) and the results show active THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) in your blood, you’ll be prosecuted accordingly. Many law enforcement agencies and prosecutors will inappropriately try to prosecute someone for DWAI-Drugs if the blood results show the presence of only THC metabolites (11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Metabolites can be in your blood for hours and sometimes days after the effects of the psychoactive ingredients have ceased and the presence of metabolites alone is therefore not an indication of impairment in any way.
In light of the progress legalized marijuana across country, I anticipate NY will also eventually begin using some of the devices discussed in the article below. Unfortunately for law enforcement, it’s not as simple as just picking a new testing method and racking up the convictions. So I look forward to challenging the reliability of these devices and admissibility of their results in the courts for years to come!