Maryland's Marijuana Legalization Laws and Driving
On October 1, 2014, for the first time in history, Maryland changed its position on marijuana laws. Maryland is slowly following suit with the Western states Washington and Colorado. This is somewhat strange considering Maryland is slow to engage any new cutting edge laws. For example Maryland is one of four states left who still practices the draconian "contributory negligence" law. This is a silly law that says if a plaintiff is one percent responsible for his injuries that he may not recover for his injuries despite the defendant being 99% responsible for said injuries. Anyway, in this case Maryland was quick to jump on the marijuana band wagon. While it is somewhat laughable that the delegates would choose to change this law before other laws, it nevertheless is a welcome change.
It would appear that the state of Maryland, like other states, are after the tax benefits and ramifications of a healthy marijuana business. At this point all Maryland has done is decriminalize up to 10 g of marijuana Making that a civil citation as opposed to a criminal charge. This is the first step towards the ultimate goal of legalization and taxation. In addition Maryland has legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes as well. CNN has done many reports on the positive aspects of marijuana as they relate to certain medical conditions. This evidently has caught the attention of the government and the states.
I suspect however that the biggest attention getter of them all is the significant tax revenue that the states can realize from legalizing the sale of marijuana. So once that becomes a reality the state government will have to redraft its legislation regarding impaired driving and marijuana. Presently there are DUI statutes on the books that involve impaired driving and the use of drugs, they are known as 21 – 902C or D. However, when marijuana becomes much more prolific, the government will need a way to classify impairment just as they have with alcohol.
Undoubtedly classification of marijuana and impairment will be somewhat challenging because there is no immediate way to classify the level of impairment as there is with alcohol with a breath alcohol test. The state could extract a driver's blood and have it tested for THC levels which they very well may end up doing, however this will not result in expeditious results and it will result in far more cost to the state to run blood tests when every alleged impaired driver. Also how does the state classify impairment secondary to THC levels in a variety of different people. I suppose they will come up with some arbitrary limit just as they have done with the blood alcohol content.
Interestingly, there will be much more to come as marijuana is ultimately legalized in the state of Maryland and legislatures have to determine how to handle impairment from this substance. We will keep you posted on the latest developments in this interesting area. In the meantime impaired driving still means that the drivers "normal coordination is somewhat impaired." So for now, remember that the government can always charge impaired driving if they determine that your normal coordination is impaired. This is done through the use of Field sobriety testing as it always has been. This will not change even in the presence of legalization of marijuana.