The key to enforcement of the Operating Under The Influence Of Drugs (Marijuana) law is establishing the limits the amount of active THC - the element of pot that makes you high - in a driver's blood. Most states have set a maximum of five nanograms per milliliter of blood, which state officials believe is the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of .08. To enforce it officers need to order a blood test, which can be very controversial.The states have trained officers to look for signs of marijuana use on the road; distracted driving, light body tremors, different sized pupils, impaired motor skills and the smell of marijuana in the vehicle.
Impairment difficult to measure
But research has shown measuring impairment based on THC levels is not clear cut.That's because unlike alcohol, people metabolize THC at different rates, so impairment can vary widely from person to person making it hard to determine if a person is impaired solely based on THC levels.In addition, these tests have been challenged in courts, where people have claimed to have smoked days before their blood test registered the presence of THC.
One researcher has found most heavy marijuana users would be below the five-nanogram level within hours of last consuming the drug, and virtually all users would be below the mark after 24 hours. But the research also found signs of impairment in heavy, chronic, daily users were still observable after three weeks of abstinence.
Law enforcement is also looking for technology like breathalyzers that could detect if someone is high, but so far, there's no hand-held device that police can use to measure the amount a suspected driver has consumed or determine impairment.
Laws on the books
Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are no different than those relating to alcohol here in Massachusetts. As with Operating Under - Alcohol cases, wherein you are not required to submit to field sobriety test or breath tests, the same strategies should apply in Operating Under - Drugs. Do not give evidence against yourself by preforming Field Sobriety Tests, Breath Tests or Blood Tests. Often times police will tell individuals that they have to preform the test or that they are not admissible in court, all of which is very misleading. Additionally, when being charged with Operating Under - Drugs, police will tell you that you have to be examined by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) officer. As with any tests, you have the right to refuse. Always keep in mind that you should never provide evidence which will only to be used against, your regardless of who is requesting it.