Is a Medical Marijuana Prescription a Valid Defense to a Los Angeles DUI?

Many people mistakenly believe that because they have a valid prescription for the use of medical Marijuana in California, that they are exempt from driving under the influence offenses. This is absolutely not true.

California Vehicle code §23152, and 23153, make it unlawful for any person to operate a vehicle while impaired. When most people think of a DUI, they immediately associate it with someone driving under the influence of alcohol. Although 23152(a) makes it unlawful “for a person who is under the influence

of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle” it is not a the only influence that can result in a DUI.

23152(e) and (f) also state as follows:

“(e) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.(f) It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle”

Marijuana, whether for medicinal purposes or not, is still classified as a drug. And like any other drug, or alcohol, you cannot operate a vehicle while you are under the influence. To take a step back logically, alcohol is also a legal substance as long as you consume it within the legal guidelines and age limits. However, it is still illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired.

Let’s consider David’s example. David is not a fan of alcohol. He does not believe in the damage it does to his body and does not consume alcohol. He is a cancer survivor and has gone through chemotherapy and extensive doctor visits. He often has pain and trouble sleeping. For these reasons, his doctor has recommended medicinal marijuana. David went to go see a doctor and has qualified for a prescription. He therefore has obtained the requisite paperwork and smokes marijuana when he has trouble sleeping or feels pain. Oftentimes he feels pain during the day, so he smokes. If he needs to go to a doctor’s appointment, or to run errands, he will do so, even if he has just smoked. Generally the pain is too strong for him to even drive, whereas the marijuana helps alleviate the pain allowing him to drive.

Despite the fact that David has a valid medical reason for being under the influence of marijuana, his senses are still impaired. He is still unable to property operate a vehicle that will not be a danger to himself or others on the road. Driving under the influence of marijuana alone is, however, a harder case for Prosecutor’s to make than driving under the influence of alcohol or under the influence of both.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, do not hesitate to contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer as soon as possible. Although a prescription for medicinal marijuana may not be a valid defense against a DUI, there are many other defenses available. Speaking to a legal professional will help you analyze and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

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