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DuPage County criminal defense attorney marijuana DUI

Across the country, more and more states are beginning to loosen the restrictions on laws surrounding the possession and use of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Currently, there are 33 states that permit residents with certain conditions to use marijuana, while only 11 states, including Illinois, allow recreational use of marijuana. Even though cannabis is legal for adults to possess and consume, many people do not know that you can actually be charged with a DUI if you get caught while driving while you are under the influence of marijuana. This can result in significant criminal penalties, so it is imperative to consult a skilled attorney to understand your defense options.

Cannabis and Illinois Driving Laws

With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21, some were concerned with how the change would affect existing DUI laws. However, the laws are clear that cannabis is included as a prohibited intoxicating substance, despite the reason for its use. According to the most recent Illinois DUI Fact Book, “A driver may not operate a motor vehicle while impaired by the use of cannabis, whether used medically or recreationally.”

Like alcohol, cannabis also has a limit for the amount of THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, present in your bloodstream while you are operating a vehicle. Just like the legal limit for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent, the legal limit for THC is 5 nanograms per milliliter of whole blood or 10 nanograms per milliliter of another bodily substance.

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DuPage County marijuana possession lawyerIllinois became the 11th state to legalize the recreational sale and use of marijuana and marijuana products Friday. This was a historic moment in United States history, as Illinois passed the bill that permits both usage and sales of recreational cannabis entirely through legislation, rather than a voter referendum. The new law significantly alters how the state will handle cannabis. It will now treat it and tax it similarly to the way the state handles alcohol. Though recreational marijuana will be legal in Illinois, there are still rules that you must follow, otherwise, you face penalties.

When and Where Can I Buy Recreational Marijuana?

Beginning in January 2020, recreational marijuana will be available for purchase by any citizen over the age of 21 at any of the 20 medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. By mid-2020, additional licenses will be given to other recreational stores, processors and cultivators, though local governments have the power to decide whether recreational marijuana businesses operate in their area.

How Much Can I Buy/Possess?

Citizens are permitted to possess up to 30 grams of dry marijuana flower, which equates to around one ounce, or as much as can fit into an adult’s cupped hands. Citizens are also permitted to possess up to five grams of cannabis concentrate and up to 500 milligrams of THC in cannabis-infused products, such as tinctures or edibles. Visitors to Illinois are permitted to possess half of those amounts.

Where Can I Consume Marijuana?

You are permitted to consume cannabis in private residences or in some cannabis-related businesses. You are not permitted to consume cannabis if you are in a public place, including streets or parks, in a motor vehicle, on school grounds (unless you are a medical marijuana user) or around anyone who is under the age of 21.

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DuPage County DUI defense lawyersThe medical marijuana program in Illinois has provided many individuals with an alternative treatment option for debilitating pain, spastic disorders, and other severe illnesses. There is, however, one caveat: patients cannot drive while under the influence of marijuana. Sadly, the method for determining intoxication is, at best, ineffective and, at worst, inaccurate. Learn more about the medical marijuana DUI laws in Illinois, including how being arrested could impact nearly every aspect of your life and how an experienced DUI defense lawyer may be able to help mitigate the damage.

What is Wrong with Illinois’ Marijuana DUI Laws?

Drivers are prohibited from using any substance that can impair their driving abilities – and that includes prescriptions and medical cannabis. However, most substances can be detected with at least some level of accuracy. This simply is not the case when it comes to medical marijuana.

Though state law does indicate that there is a legal limit for marijuana (five or more nanograms), the very presence of this limit indicates that law enforcement does not care about how marijuana is metabolized by the body – particularly when it comes to chronic users.

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Wheaton criminal defense attorneyA little more than half of U.S employers drug test potential employees before offering a job. An analysis of over 10 million workplaces found that the number of positive results is the highest it has been in 12 years. Marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine use is on the rise nationwide. According to the analysis carried out by Quest Diagnostics, 4.2 percent of drug tests produced positive results in 2016. That number is up 4 percent from 2015, making it the highest rate since 2004.

Marijuana Leads in Drug Use

Although the Illinois rate of positive drug tests was the same as the national average, drug use varies between different regions. For example, Chicago’s suburban residents tested positive for cocaine more than other drugs. Southern Illinois residents tested positive for opiates more often than other areas, and heroin use was most common near Rockford.

Overall, drug use appears to be on the rise but it is still not as high as it was 30 years ago. When Quest Diagnostics began their annual report on positive drug tests in 1988, almost 14 percent of drug tests came back positive. Increased marijuana use is largely responsible for the higher rate of positive results and accounted for about half of all positive results.

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DuPage County criminal defense lawyerThe discussion regarding marijuana continues to evolve, and the applicable laws are constantly adjusting to meet society’s needs. Recently, Senate Bill 2228 was introduced and passed into law to alter the details surrounding charges and penalties regarding marijuana and driving under the influence, or DUI. Although the new law is not perfect, it seems to be a step in the right direction.

Legal Limits

For the safety of you, your passengers, and others on the roadway, it is illegal to drive while impaired, regardless of the substance used. Previously, Illinois was a “zero tolerance” state according to the Cannabis Control Act and Vehicle Codes, meaning if any amount of marijuana was found in the system of a driver upon testing, that would be enough for a potential conviction. As of July 29th, 2016, there is a new legal limit of:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration in the person's whole blood or other bodily substance of five nanograms or more of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter of whole blood; or
  • Ten nanograms or more of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter of other bodily substance.

While this does provide some leniency compared to a zero-tolerance policy, as with alcohol impairment, various substances affect individuals differently depending on a variety of factors. Therefore, even if you have not reached these legal limits, if you are still considered to be impaired, you may be arrested based on the judgment of the attending officer.

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