In Florida, driving under the influence comes with serious consequences. In fact, if you get behind the wheel while impaired by any drugs, including marijuana, you are subject to the same penalties as those who drive while drunk. A DUI for driving while stoned can include costly fines, a revoked license and even jail time. Plus, your conviction could remain on your record up to 75 years.
But while substances like alcohol have a nationally recognized legal limit for when it’s unsafe to drive – a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher – there is no such limit for weed. Driving with any amount of THC in your system is illegal in the sunshine state, but just how dangerous is stoned driving and how does law enforcement recognize it?
How marijuana affects driving
A majority of studies have found that using pot impairs a person’s ability to drive. According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), driving under the influence of weed can cause:
- Slowed reaction times
- Decreased hand-eye coordination
- Difficulty perceiving time and distance
- Weakened concentration
However, scientists have found the effects of marijuana impairment, in general, to be modest. Driving while stoned is likened to driving with a BAC between .01 and .05 – which is considered legal nationwide.
Many factors determine how high a person is, including the amount of pot consumed, when it was consumed and its potency. Because of these different variables, researchers and law enforcement alike struggle to gauge how dangerous driving while stoned actually is.
How police detect stoned drivers
As there are not yet any tools like breathalyzers that can help police determine who is high, they receive training to recognize the signs of drugged driving. However, these signs aren’t always obvious and may not even be apparent in marijuana users with a high tolerance to the drug.
While police may obtain a warrant for a blood or urine sample, the results of these tests can be unreliable. THC is known to stay in the body for days or even weeks after consumption. Regular pot users could display positive test results even if they are no longer high.
The bottom line
If you want to avoid getting a DUI and a criminal record, the best thing you can do is never get behind the wheel while stoned. However, as more states legalize the use of recreational marijuana, lawmakers will face the challenge of determining when it’s unsafe to drive high and how police can reliably test for it.