There may be some new protections on the way for Pennsylvania medical marijuana users, but nothing is official yet.

Until that occurs, if you or a loved one are charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana in or around Chester County, Pennsylvania, we highly recommend you contact Skinner Law Firm for help. We defend medical marijuana patients in Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, and Montgomery Counties against drug DUIs and other marijuana crimes.

You can reach us at (610) 436-1410 or online. Your first consultation is free, and we’ll talk with you about Pennsylvania DUI law and how to defend yourself.

When Police Can Charge Cannabis Patients With DUI

It’s essential to understand when the police can arrest medical marijuana users for a DUI. Under PA Code §3802, you can’t drive, operate a car, or be in physical control of a vehicle if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. As you might know, police can charge you when you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher or if there is other evidence of impairment.

PA Code §3802(d) talks about drug DUIs. You can’t control a vehicle when you have any amount of a Schedule I substance or its metabolite in your body. A metabolite is a substance the drug creates as it breaks down in your body. You can’t have any Schedule II or Schedule III substances that aren’t prescribed in your body when driving, either.

Despite having medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, the drug is still a Schedule I substance. You can’t have any amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or a THC metabolite in your body while controlling a car. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

If the police stop you and see signs of impairment, they will arrest you. They can base the arrest on:

  • Your driving maneuvers
  • The smell of marijuana
  • How your eyes look
  • How you respond to questions
  • Field sobriety test results

If blood, urine, or another chemical test shows THC or a metabolite, the police will charge you with a DUI.

The Controversy Around Marijuana DUIs

There are several concerns with marijuana DUIs. First, it’s frustrating for medical marijuana users. Many people use cannabis to treat the effects of severe medical conditions. Without a legal exception for medical marijuana, a lawful user can be convicted of a DUI.

Second, the presence of THC in your body doesn’t indicate you’re high and impaired. The body doesn’t treat marijuana the same way it does alcohol. We know how the body metabolizes alcohol and impairs a person’s physical and mental capabilities; that knowledge is how lawmakers could choose a maximum BAC level.

Cannabis affects people differently. There isn’t a specific amount of THC that impairs all people the same amount. THC and its metabolites also tend to linger in the body. You could have THC in your body despite having imbibed marijuana two or three days before. Or, if you are a regular medicinal user, you may always have some amount of THC in your body.

Will There Be a Medical Marijuana Exception for DUIs?

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering an exception to DUIs for medical marijuana users. In October 2020, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed SB 773 by a 109-93 vote. An amendment added to the bill included the exception.

The Pennsylvania Senate previously passed the bill. Now that the House approved it, it needs a Senate vote before going to the governor. The last action on the bill was to send it to the Appropriations Committee.

Will the bill pass? We don’t know yet whether this bill will become law. We’ll keep a close eye on the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the 2021 session.

Will Marijuana Ever Not Be a Schedule I Drug?

More than one person in Pennsylvania, like Tony Jezzi, has argued marijuana shouldn’t be a Schedule I drug anymore. The legal arguments haven’t gone far.

In Commonwealth v. Jezzi, 2019 PA Super 132 (2019), police arrested Jezzi and charged him with possession of marijuana, possession of intent to deliver marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

At trial, Jezzi argued the Medical Marijuana Act (MMA), which legalized medical marijuana, conflicts with the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act (CSA), which makes marijuana a Schedule I drug. The judge disagreed, and he was convicted.

Jezzi appealed to the Superior Court, which took a close look at the MMA and CSA and whether they conflict. The Superior Court decided the two laws aren’t in disagreement. The MMA creates a temporary program for certain people to use medical marijuana. It doesn’t say that all marijuana is safe and effective for medical use. The court also found the MMA didn’t intend to remove marijuana from Schedule I drugs.

Marijuana DUI Charge? Call Skinner Law Firm

When you responsibly and lawfully use marijuana for a medical condition, you shouldn’t face DUI charges. You shouldn’t be punished for taking legal medication. Let Skinner Law Firm thoroughly review your case and build a strong defense. It may be possible to have the charge dropped or dismissed. If your case moves forward, we’ll fight hard for an acquittal.

For a free, confidential consultation, use our online form, or call (610) 436-1410.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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