DUID Is the New DUI: What California’s Marijuana DUI Laws Look Like

California is now a state in which anyone over the age of 21 can legally buy marijuana for recreational use, much like they would a six pack of beer. As with anything new, the laws surrounding the use and possession of the drug will probably see some changes as time passes, but for now, we’ve compiled some useful information about existing restrictions. Marijuana DUI laws are leaving people who use marijuana confused about their rights. Under Vehicle Code 23152€ VC, driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime, plain and simple. California law enforcement has already begun devoting much thought and action to enforcing California’s DUI laws, which include impaired driving as the result of ingesting or smoking marijuana.

While the laws surrounding drunk driving are more precise due to BAC levels being easily measurable, there are laws about driving while high: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug [including marijuana] to drive a vehicle.”

There are no widely accepted methods for detecting impairment from marijuana yet. If California officials have decided on a standard field sobriety test for marijuana, they have not disclosed it yet to the general public. There have also been talks of a cannabis breathalyzer and swab tests, but there are no statewide standards and practices in place in California. However, in Colorado, police use blood tests to determine a threshold level of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Unlike the way Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is used to determine the extent of fines and jail terms, there are no definite rules regarding threshold amounts of THC in the system.

States Where Recreational Marijuana Is Legal:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Washington, DC

States Considering Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Soon:

  • Vermont
  • New Jersey
  • Michigan
  • Delaware
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • Ohio

States Considering Legalizing Medical Marijuana:

  • Oklahoma
  • Kentucky
  • South Dakota

General Marijuana Laws in California:

  • You must be 21 years old or older to carry any marijuana.
  • You can only carry up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrates.
  • You can grow up to 6 plants in your home. These plants must be well secured and not visible to passersby.
  • You can still be terminated from your job because cannabis is still illegal on the federal level. So, be careful if you are required to take a drug-test. Just because it’s legal in your state doesn’t mean your employer won’t frown upon its use.
  • You can only purchase from a licensed dispensary.
  • You cannot smoke marijuana in public. Landlords can also restrict its use on their property.

Marijuana Driving Laws and Marijuana DUI:

Much like driving, you cannot be impaired from the use of marijuana while driving.

You can be arrested for having marijuana (vape pens, joints, and paraphernalia with traces of marijuana in it) in your car, if it’s not in your trunk or somewhere out of reach while you are driving. If it’s sealed, it’s fine, but the seal cannot be broken.

While a police officer will probably not pull you over for smoking what may likely be a tobacco product, they will do so if it’s obviously marijuana you’re ingesting. In most cases, a person will be pulled over for a moving violation and the marijuana product is found in the car with the driver having easy access.

According to Sacramento State’s public radio, a fine for smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving are punishable with a $70-$100 fine. However, police officers have gotten extensive training on impaired driving (swerving or driving unsafely and recklessly). If your driving is defined as “impaired,” the same DUI penalties that apply to an alcohol DUI will apply to a marijuana DUI. That means thousands of dollars.

What Happens If I’m Suspected of a Marijuana DUI?

As reported in the San Francisco Gate, first, a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) will be called in to determine if you’re high or sober. Some of the factors the DRE will look for include dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes, elevated pulse rate, elevated blood pressure, and dry mouth. They will also look to see if you smell of marijuana and check your short-term memory for signs of impairment.

If you are arrested for DUID, you will be taken to the station. They may give you a blood draw. The DRE will also testify at your trial. A blood test for a marijuana DUI is not as reliable as it is for an alcohol DUI because THC stays in the bloodstream for up to 8 weeks. However, in Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal, you cannot be driving with 5 or more nanograms active THC per milliliter of blood. However, a medical marijuana patient in Colorado is able to fight a charge with the help of a good lawyer. If you live in California, your attorney can poke holes at the same legal parameters.

What if I’m Convicted of a Marijuana DUI? What Are the Penalties?

As mentioned above, the penalties and fines for a marijuana are similar to those for drunk driving. Just as with an alcohol DUI, the severity of punishment depends on the facts of your case, your criminal history and the county in which you were arrested. Keep in mind that the Zero Tolerance Laws in California mean even stricter penalties.

A first offense will be more lenient than a second or third offense, but in either scenario, you are paying thousands of dollars in fines and facing jail time as well as probation. See below for specific cases:

First Conviction

  • An average of $1,800 in fines (maximum $2,600).
  • An average of 2 days in jail (maximum 6 months).
  • Regular license is suspended for 30 days from the date of the arrest (maximum 6 months; 10 months maximum.)
  • A 90-day restricted license is issued.
  • 3-month mandatory drug-treatment program, costing about $500.
  • Must carry an SR-22 insurance certificate for 3 years.
  • 3-5 years of probation.
  • Possible impounding of the vehicle for up to 30 days (at your expense).

Second Conviction

  • An average of $1,800 in fines ($3,000 maximum).
  • 10 days in jail.
  • 18-30 month drug-treatment program, costing on average $1,800.
  • On average, the regular license is suspended for one year from the date of arrest (maximum suspension: 2 years).
  • Two-year restricted license (only to drive to and from work).
  • Must carry an SR-22 insurance certificate for an extended period of time (5 years maximum).
  • 10 years of probation.
  • Possible impounding of the vehicle for up to 30 days (at your expense).

Third Conviction

  • Anywhere between $1,800 and $18,000 in fines.
  • 120 days in jail (1 year maximum).
  • Regular license is suspended for 3 years.
  • 30-month multi-offender drug-treatment program, on average costing over $2,000.
  • Possible impounding of the vehicle for up to 90 days (at your expense) or the complete forfeiture and loss of the vehicle.
  • Charges of a felony (if someone is killed or hurt in an accident), will cause you to forfeit your vehicle.

Fourth Conviction

  • Anywhere between $1,800 and $18,000 in fines.
  • 16 months in state prison maximum.
  • Regular license is suspended for 4 years.
  • 30-month multi-offender drug-treatment program, on average costing over $2,000.
  • Possible impounding of vehicle for up to 90 days (at your expense) or the complete forfeiture and loss of the vehicle.
  • Charges of a felony will cause you to forfeit your vehicle, however. With a fourth offense, you can be charged with a felony even if no one is hurt and there’s been no accident.

What if I’m Pulled Over and Have Marijuana in My Car?

It’s best to comply with the officers but to not make any statements or admissions until you are released from jail. You will be given a court date to fight the conviction. It’s advisable to hire a good DUI attorney who specializes in marijuana arrests and marijuana DUIs. Make sure your attorney practices in the jurisdiction where the arrest was made.

Contact the DMV right away. In California you have 10 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing about license suspension. Without a hearing, your license will automatically be suspended.

The best thing you can do if you are a marijuana user is to abstain from smoking (and smelling like) marijuana before you get behind the wheel. If you are traveling with any cannabis products, put them in the trunk along with any paraphernalia you may have. Always, drive safely, especially if you have anything in your car that could result in a DUI.

For more cannabis DUI laws, visit here. For example, did you know that a security guard can hold you and call the police if you’re caught smoking in the parking lot?


If you’ve had a marijuana-related conviction or arrest and still have questions about your car insurance, call an Insurance Specialist at (888) 772-4247. We’ll let you know what you need to do to get back on the road legally and safely. We’ll also find you the cheapest way to get behind the wheel again. AIS Insurance is known all through California as the leader in finding affordable auto insurance.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms, and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.

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