Even though the laws and rules surrounding marijuana use in Maryland have changed a lot in such a short time, driving while high is still considered illegal in the state, even if you have a medical marijuana medical card or prescription.
While many Marylanders are excited about the new legalization of adult-use (21 years of age or older) marijuana going into effect on July 1, 2023, it is important to remember that any form of cannabis will remain prohibited from being used in a motor vehicle regardless of whether you are the passenger or driver.
What happens if you are caught driving with marijuana in or near Annapolis?
As of right now – meaning, before July 1, 2023 – if you are caught driving with marijuana in Annapolis or other Maryland cities, police officers can arrest you for possessing marijuana in a vehicle or for a cannabis DUI (if you fail a test). After July 1, 2023, you can be arrested for possession if you are under the age of 21, if you have more weed than is legally allowed, or if you are under the influence of marijuana.
But I have a prescription
Doesn’t matter. You can’t drive high. You can get busted for DUI if you’re on your legally prescribed allergy meds if they make you woozy behind the wheel.
What if I’m totally sober but have my medicine in my purse/pocket?
Hope you have your scrip with you, because if you don’t, you can still get charged with possession if the cop is in a mood. Sure, I can fight to get those charges dropped – but it’s better to avoid the whole scenario, no?
Therefore, it is highly recommended that you never drive with cannabis in your vehicle, never use marijuana before or while operating a vehicle, and never allow anyone in your vehicle who is transporting or using cannabis. It does not matter if you are a medical marijuana cardholder; you will be charged and arrested if you are caught driving while impaired, which could result in a misdemeanor or felony charge.
Why are drivers not allowed to use marijuana before or while behind the wheel?
According to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), getting behind the wheel after or while using cannabis can significantly impact your ability to drive. Therefore, if you choose to do this, you are putting drivers, pedestrians, and passengers at serious risk of harm. The reason for this is because marijuana use can cause the following:
- Slower reactions: Marijuana can cause your body to have slower reaction times. This means that it may take you longer to make a turn, change lanes, or stop at a stop light or sign in time.
- Difficulty concentrating: When an individual uses marijuana and gets behind the wheel, they may have a very hard time concentrating or focusing on the task at hand, which is driving.
- Fatigue and tiredness: Cannabis is known to make some people feel tired and fatigued, which can cause you to fall asleep behind the wheel.
If you have used medical marijuana and need to drive somewhere, it is suggested that you wait at least six hours after your last use before driving or operating a motor vehicle. The effects of marijuana can be different for each person. Therefore, some people experience delayed effects, making six hours a decent amount of time to ensure that the effects have passed and that you can safely operate a vehicle without impairments.
Consequences for a marijuana DUI in Maryland
Maryland Code 21-902 states that “a person may not drive or attempt to drive any vehicle while so far impaired by any drug, any combination of drugs, or a combination of one or more drugs and alcohol that the person cannot drive a vehicle safely.” That said, if you are caught driving under the influence of marijuana, Maryland Code 16-205.1 requires that you take a test to determine how much of the substance is in your blood. If you are charged with a marijuana DUI in Maryland, here are the offenses and consequences you may receive:
- First offense: You may be required to serve up to one year in jail, pay a fine up to $1,000, and pass a drug education class. You may also have your license suspended for up to 45 days. If a child was in your vehicle at the time, you may be required to serve up to two years in jail and pay a fine of $2,000.
- Second offense: If this is your second offense, you may be required to serve up to two years in jail, pay a fine up to $2,000, and pass a drug education course. Your license may also be suspended for up to 90 days. If a child was found in your vehicle, you may be required to spend up to three years in jail and pay a $3,000 fine.
- Third offense: If this is your third offense, you may be required to spend up to three years in jail, pay a fine up to $3,000, and take a drug education class. Your license may also be suspended for up to 18 months. If there was a child in your vehicle at the time, you could spend up to four years in jail and pay a fine up to $4,000.
There is still hope when it comes to your case
Although it is not possible to claim that you have a medical marijuana prescription if you are charged with a marijuana DUI in Maryland, this does not mean that all hope is lost. At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, I will do everything in my power to evaluate the circumstances, determine different ways around specific charges, and help you collect proper evidence to build a strong case. Some of the different defense strategies I may use include:
- Stating that the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion or a warrant to pull you over or look for the marijuana
- Working to show that the marijuana was planted on you by the officer to set you up
- Implying that the marijuana was contaminated some time between your arrest and court hearing
- Claiming that the amount of marijuana you have been charged for is incorrect
If I am not able to get your charges completely dropped, I will work tirelessly to get the best outcome possible, which is usually ensuring that your charges are lowered.
If you are accused of having weed in your vehicle in Maryland, it is crucial that you reach out to an Annapolis criminal defense lawyer at your earliest opportunity. With close to 25 years of knowledge and experience helping clients who are going through these tough situations, I know how to successfully stand up and protect your rights. Schedule a free case evaluation today in Annapolis or Ellicott City by submitting our contact form or calling our office.
And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.