In about six months, adults 21 and over will have the opportunity to buy legal marijuana in Illinois. Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed a proposal into law, making the Land of Lincoln the 11th state in the nation to legalize the leaf for recreational use. Of course, this means cannabis enthusiasts from surrounding prohibition states will likely visit Illinois starting in 2020.
Some of them will even attempt to smuggle legal green back into a state where pot possession can still get a person jammed up in the criminal justice system. Even if you have read some of our advice columns on not getting busted while traveling with weed across state lines, there are other hazards out there, too, for pot consumers who play in legal states but then drive back to an area where prohibition is still the law of the land.
Perhaps the most significant risk is coming away with a charge for “driving under the influence of drugs” (DUID).
Although every state has its own version of a DUID law, some of them are stricter than others. There are effect-based laws, which is where law enforcement and prosecutors must prove a motorist was impaired before getting a conviction. There are also Per Se laws that have a specific level of drugs allowed in a person’s system before they can be charged with a crime.
But several states still have “zero tolerance” laws for stoned driving.
These little devils allow cops to drag motorists to jail for having any amount of marijuana in their bodies. If an officer suspects you are driving high, they can demand a sobriety test. Failure to comply is as good as an admission of guilt and can lead to an automatic arrest and conviction for this crime.
Right now, there are 15 states with zero tolerance DUI laws. Indiana is one of them. So if a Hoosier visits Illinois next year and enjoys a nice, long weekend basking in all the high amenities that a legal weed state has to offer, they could easily find themselves answering to law enforcement on their way home.
And if an officer’s line of questioning happens to lean toward something like, “Have you been using marijuana this weekend?” it could mean that a nasty charge for DUID is dangerously close.
Legal experts say getting arrested for this offense is a sure thing – even if the motorist is not impaired at the time.
“Indiana’s zero tolerance policy also encompasses illegal drug use,” attorney Sean Hessler of Hessler Law wrote in a blog post. “If you are caught with a controlled substance, such as marijuana, cocaine, meth, nonprescription opioids, or heroin, you will be charged with a crime. If you are determined to have any amount of an illegal drug in your body while driving, you will face a DUI.”
Marijuana metabolizes in the body differently than alcohol. So where it is easy for law enforcement to determine if a motorist is driving drunk – they simply give them a breathalyzer — the science behind stoned driving is not so cut and dry. Marijuana can linger in a person’s system for months. In a no tolerance state, like Indiana, this could mean someone who smoked weed on a Friday night could end up in jail for DUID a week later. If this happens to you, it is going to take one heck of an attorney to straighten out the mess. Choose to fight the battle alone and you run the risk of losing your license and paying fines and court costs of over $10,000. You might even get to start attending drug classes. Just try explaining to your employer that you’re going to have trouble getting to work for the next year or so because the cops busted you for driving high.
What we’re trying to say is, you’ve got to be careful out there. Learn more about the drug laws in your state and understand the many ways you could find yourself up to your ears in legal problems because of conflicting marijuana laws. That or go ahead and buy yourself a bicycle. You’re probably going to need it soon enough.