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Medical Marijuana Can Still Lead to DUI Charges

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DUI, medical marijuana, Will County DUI Defense LawyerIn January 2014, Illinois became one of 20 states in which the medical use of marijuana or cannabis was decriminalized. Under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, signed by then-Governor Pat Quinn in August 2013, registered users are permitted to purchase marijuana from a “dispensing organization” to treat symptoms related to a “debilitating medical condition.”  In addition, however, the act also spells out some very important details over a registered user's operation of a motor vehicle and possible DUI scenarios.

Trace Law

Under previous Illinois law, drivers operating a vehicle with any amount of a controlled substance, including cannabis, in their system were subject to prosecution for DUI. With the passage of the medical marijuana law, the zero-tolerance policy has been eased regarding cannabis for drivers who possess a valid registry card. Law enforcement officer are required to establish the driver's impairment before proceeding to arrest a driver on suspicion of DUI.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Physical performance tests have traditionally been a technique for law enforcement to determine a driver's level of impairment during a suspected DUI stop. While such tests were designed primarily with alcohol-related intoxication in mind, rather than cannabis or other drugs, Illinois laws have never before statutorily recognized their validity. For registered users of medical marijuana, however, the law now explicitly identifies field sobriety tests as a method for detecting impairment related cannabis use. Despite concerns over the tests' efficiency for cannabis cases, the results are admissible during DUI criminal proceedings and any subsequent actions.

Issues for Registered Users

The medical use law provides that a registered user whose blood or urine tests positive for marijuana, but who is not impaired, will not be subject to driver's license suspensions as was previously indicated under law. The act clearly specifies, however, that possession of a legal registration card is not a valid defense for driving under the influence. It also clarifies, however, that a driver's possession of such card is not valid grounds for law enforcement to field test that driver; a separate basis for reasonable suspicion of cannabis-related impairment must exist.

If you possess a valid medical marijuana use registry card and are facing DUI charges related to cannabis-impairment, you need a qualified lawyer who understands the intricacies of the law. Contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney for your free consultation today and find out how our team can help with your defense.

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