In the state of Colorado, the recreational use of marijuana isn’t just decriminalized, it’s legal. So long as a user is only in possession of one ounce of marijuana or less, and so long as they are at least 21 years of age, the use of marijuana is not against the law. (Possession of one to two ounces is a petty offense.) However, that does not mean that there aren’t conditions to this use.
For example, marijuana is considered to be an impairing substance and, therefore, the use of marijuana before driving may indeed be an offense. Here’s what you should know about your ability–or inability, rather–to legally drive after smoking or otherwise using marijuana in Colorado:
Colorado Laws on Impaired Driving
Per Colorado statutes, it is unlawful for a person to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs of any type, including lawful drugs, such as prescription drugs or, in this case, marijuana. Because you cannot judge your own level of impairment after using marijuana, it is strongly recommended to not drive after consuming/using THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient that results in a “high” sensation.
How Much Can I Legally Use and Drive?
You can be convicted of driving while impaired if you have consumed/used any impairing substance and you are “under the influence” of such a substance and your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is impaired as such. In terms of “how much” marijuana in your blood will serve as an automatic presumption of impairment, the law reads that having five (or more) nanograms of active THC in one’s blood while operating a motor vehicle can result in prosecution for a DUI (driving under the influence) offense. Again, note that even if the level of active THC in your blood is less than this, a police officer may have probable cause to arrest you regardless based on their observed level of impairment.
The prohibition on using marijuana and driving stands both for recreational users of marijuana and users of medical marijuana. Just like an over-the-counter drug, you cannot lawfully use any substance that is impairing and then get behind the wheel of a car.
One common question that people who use marijuana have is how a law enforcement officer will even be able to deduce that one has used the drug prior to driving.
- Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) Training. In the state of Colorado, many of our law enforcement officers have received ARIDE training, which means that they have advanced knowledge of how to detect drug impairment.
- Blood testing. The other way to determine whether or not an individual has used marijuana is to perform a blood test. While you maintain the right to refuse to submit to a blood test, if you do, your driver’s license will be revoked, and you will automatically be labeled as a “high-risk driver.”
Other Laws Related to Marijuana and Driving
Note that in addition to the law prohibiting impaired driving, whether as a result of alcohol consumption or drug use, Colorado also has an open container law on the books. This law also makes it illegal to have marijuana-related paraphernalia in the car, as well as any open containers of marijuana.
Defenses Against Drugged Driving
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI as a result of allegations that you were operating a vehicle while impaired from marijuana use, you need a skilled DUI attorney on your side. Potential defenses against drug driving charges include a lack of proof that you had used marijuana, an improperly administered roadside sobriety test, an unlawful stop or vehicle search, evidence that you had used marijuana but were no longer under the influence at the time you were driving, and many others. If you are convicted, you can face serious penalties – it is strongly recommended that you seek the counsel of a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible in order to start building your defense and considering your options.
Call Our Colorado DUI Attorneys Today
The laws surrounding marijuana use and driving can be confusing and unclear. But if you are arrested for driving while under the influence of marijuana, one thing is certain: you need a skilled attorney. At the law offices of Anderson & Carnahan Attorneys at Law, our experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyers have worked on marijuana-involved DUI cases and understand what it takes to protect our clients’ best interests. To schedule a consultation with our firm today, please send us a message, visit our law office in person, or call us directly at 719-473-9099.