Car Keys and Marijuana

Can You Travel by Car with Medical Marijuana in Your System in Pittsburgh?

Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. June 27, 2024

Pennsylvania’s drugged driving laws have been in place for many years, yet many drivers still do not understand whether or not they are allowed to drive with medical marijuana in their system in Pittsburgh or other parts of the state.  

The short answer to the question above is, “No.” Even though medical marijuana was made legal in Pennsylvania back in 2016, it’s still illegal to drive if you have any prescriptions containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in your system, as THC may impair your ability to drive safely even if you aren’t feeling impaired.  

At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I have been defending people charged with DUIs—including those resulting from the use of medical marijuana—for nearly 20 years. I know how to handle driving high allegations and focus on providing my clients with compassionate service.

With an office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I serve clients in Allegheny County and surrounding counties, including Beaver, Washington, Armstrong, Butler, and Westmoreland.  

“Per Se” Marijuana DUI Laws in Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania has implemented “per se” DUI laws for marijuana, which means that any detectable amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabinoid found in cannabis, in your blood can lead to a DUI charge pursuant to 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3802(d)(1)(i). This zero-tolerance policy applies regardless of whether you have a medical marijuana card or not.  

Under "per se" laws, even trace amounts of THC can result in legal consequences. This can be particularly problematic for medical marijuana users who may have residual THC in their system long after the effects have worn off. It's important to understand that these laws do not consider the level of impairment, only the presence of THC. 

A conviction for a marijuana DUI can have severe consequences, including fines, license suspension, and even jail time. For medical marijuana users, this can be especially challenging, as it may impact their ability to access the medication they need. 

How Much THC Must Be in the System to Be Prosecuted for “Per Se” Marijuana DUI? 

Under Pennsylvania law, any detectable amount of THC can lead to criminal charges. This means that there is no minimum threshold for prosecution, making it difficult for medical marijuana users to know how much is too much. 

THC can remain in your system for days or even weeks after use, depending on various factors such as metabolism, frequency of use, and the type of marijuana consumed. This makes it challenging for medical marijuana patients to ensure they are not driving with THC in their system. 

Law enforcement typically uses blood tests to detect THC levels. These tests can identify both active THC and its metabolites, which are byproducts of THC that remain in the body after the psychoactive effects have worn off. To minimize the risk of a DUI charge, medical marijuana users should be aware of how long THC stays in their system and plan their travel accordingly. This may involve waiting a certain period after using medical marijuana before driving. 

Can Your Medical Marijuana Card Be Used to Prove Your Guilt? 

Your medical marijuana card is proof that you are legally allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes in Pennsylvania. However, it does not provide immunity from DUI charges. While having a medical marijuana card shows that you are using cannabis legally, it does not protect you from "per se" DUI laws. Law enforcement can still charge you if THC is detected in your system.  

In court, the presence of a medical marijuana card does not negate the evidence of THC in your bloodstream. On the contrary, time and time again, people in Pennsylvania have been charged with DUI just for showing their medical marijuana card, implying that they may be impaired at the time of interaction with the police. But when the card is the only evidence in a criminal trial presented by the prosecution, the driver is more likely to fight the charges and avoid a conviction if they are represented by an attorney.  

Can You Refuse Blood Testing for Marijuana? 

One of the most common DUI myths is that you don’t have to submit to urine or blood testing if you get arrested for drunk or drugged driving. In Pennsylvania, although you have the right to refuse a blood test for marijuana, refusing the test can have serious consequences. Pennsylvania operates under implied consent laws, meaning that by driving, you consent to chemical testing if suspected of DUI.  

Refusing a blood test can result in automatic penalties, including license suspension for 12 months for a first offense or 18 months if you have prior DUIs on your record or have refused testing in the past. Deciding whether to refuse a blood test is a tough decision that should be made with careful consideration.  

What Are Possible Defenses to Marijuana DUI Charges?

Just because you have been charged with marijuana DUI doesn’t necessarily mean you will be convicted. Any DUI is worth fighting. There are several defenses that medical marijuana users can employ if charged with a marijuana DUI. Understanding these defenses can help you build a strong case and protect your rights:  

  • Challenging the test results. One common defense is to challenge the accuracy of the blood test results. Factors such as improper testing procedures, contamination, or the presence of only inactive metabolites can be used to question the validity of the results. 

  • Lack of impairment. Another defense is to argue that you were not impaired at the time of driving. Since "per se" laws do not consider impairment, demonstrating that you were capable of driving safely can be a viable strategy. 

  • Medical necessity. In some cases, you may be able to argue that your use of medical marijuana was a medical necessity and that you took all reasonable precautions to avoid driving while impaired. 

Hiring a DUI defense attorney who understands medical marijuana laws can greatly enhance your chances of a successful defense. They can provide valuable insights and help you navigate the legal system effectively. 

Facing DUI Charges for Driving a Car With Medical Marijuana in Your System? Talk to Me Now

Many people may be surprised to learn that it’s illegal to drive a car with medical marijuana in their system, even if they consumed it hours or possibly even days ago. And many learn it when it’s too late after they’ve been arrested for driving high.

If this is the situation you or someone you care about is in, do not hesitate to contact an attorney. At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I can dig into the facts of your case and advise you on your defense options. Reach out to my office in Pittsburgh today to schedule a free telephone meeting.