If you live in Seattle, or anywhere in Washington, you are likely aware of the new state laws that have been put into place regarding marijuana. In July of this year, the State of Washington legalized the use of recreational marijuana. Though marijuana use is now permitted, it is still illegal to operate or be in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of the drug. This is a serious issue that Washington police strongly enforce.
Since this law took effect, law enforcement officials have been on guard for a surge in marijuana related DUI offenses. Police in Spokane recently told King 5 News that they have also experienced more creative reasoning for driving under the influence of marijuana. For example, an 18 year old man who was stopped by police in mid-July after they clocked him speeding in a 35 miles per hour zone gave a very interested excuse for his alleged marijuana impairment. He stated that he had not consumed the drug but instead received a “contact high” after spending time around others who were smoking it.
Police became suspicious of the man after they smelled, what they stated, an overwhelming scent of marijuana coming from the vehicle. This article is of interest for two reasons. The first is that the author states that the deputies from the Spokane County Sheriff's Office explained the following:
[A]side from the creative excuses, not much changed after the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Many people were afraid that legalizing marijuana in Washington would lead to increased DUI activity, but so far it does not appear to have made an impact. Secondly, it brings attention to the issue of how police recognizes marijuana DUI that may need to be addressed. Police are trained to detect whether a driver smells of alcohol or marijuana as a sign that they are impaired. However, it is not illegal to smell like alcohol or a drug while operating a vehicle and drug tests are not as accurate and easy to perform as alcohol tests. This means a driver who is simply wearing a jacket that smells like marijuana may be arrested and taken into custody for testing. In the past, this may have been acceptable since marijuana use was illegal, but now that any adult can use the drug some may find this policy to be unfair.
If you are accused of a marijuana related DUI in Washington, make sure that you contact an experienced attorney right away. It is important to understand your rights.