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How Much THC Makes You Impaired?

driving-stonedWith Washington and Colorado States legalizing marijuana for recreational use, law enforcement tactics are changing. Laws around marijuana have gone from a focus on prohibition to regulation. New laws are being enacted to regulate distribution, taxation, age restrictions, and how much marijuana is reasonable for a person to possess for personal use. One of the more difficult questions to answer is what constitutes legal intoxication and how that correlates to driving while impaired. How stoned is too stoned to drive safely?

Both the Washington and Colorado State Legislatures passed house bills that declare five nanograms as the legal limit for impairment. If a person is pulled over and a blood screen detects five or more nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in a person's bloodstream, that individual is considered legally under the influence of drugs.

It can be difficult for a person to know when they are too impaired to drive whether from alcohol or marijuana. The main difference for law enforcement is the easy availability of breathalyzer tests to quantify blood alcohol levels and the relative difficulty of imposing a blood test to check for THC levels. Over time, these sorts of dilemmas will be answered by clear laws but we are not there yet. It is important to note that the body of science describing marijuana's effects on the brain and body is broad but doesn't enjoy wide consensus. Five nanograms per milliliter is perhaps a place for policy to start but it might be reasonable to expect changes to the law as scientific consensus is reached.

Driving while stoned is a crime in all 50 states but only some have set actual limits for THC in blood levels. It's important to note that unlike blood alcohol levels, THC levels in the blood do not necessarily have anything to do with impairment. Marijuana is metabolized in the body's fat cells and can be detected in the blood for as long as three months after last use in frequent pot smokers.

More than a dozen states have implemented "per se" cannabis driving laws that authorize a DUI conviction, without trial, to anyone exceeding the state's THC blood limit. Most of those states have legal blood THC limits of zero. The federal government has not gotten on board with the decriminalization of marijuana and is still recommending that all states pass zero-tolerance "per se" driving laws.

The remaining/majority of states have effect-based laws that require evidence of impairment from recent ingestion of a controlled substance before a DUI conviction is authorized. See your state's marijuana driving laws here.


"Per se" cannabis driving laws have not been shown to reduce traffic fatalities, and they may be inadvertently making criminals out of people who are using a controlled substance in a legal manner.

Washington State passed a "per se" driving law and more and more people are testing positive for marijuana since the substance was made legal for recreational use. It should be noted that the boost in numbers may actually be due to more blood tests rather than an increase in drug use.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!

Is it Safe to Drive While Taking Pain Medication?

prescription-drug-overdoseThere are so many Americans taking medication for pain and other ailments that we may not even think to ask whether we are safe to drive while on the prescription. In truth, it is safe to drive while taking most medication but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that it's best to be absolutely sure before you get behind the wheel.

Some prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can cause reactions that may make it unsafe to drive.

Reactions to medications can include:

  • Slowed movement or reaction times
  • Fainting
  • Sleepiness/drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Excitability or racing heart
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to focus or pay attention
  • Nausea

Risk of DUI

In some states, driving while under the influence of drugs/medication, whether prescribed or not, can put you at risk for a DUI. If you cause an accident while taking medication, you may find yourself under scrutiny for any medication you were taking at the time of the collision.

Medications that could Cause Unsafe Driving

Keep yourself and others safe. Be cautious if taking any of the following prescription or OTC medications as they could cause a decrease in your driving abilities:

  • drugs for anxiety
  • pain relievers
  • antidepressants
  • products containing codeine
  • some cold remedies and allergy products
  • tranquilizers
  • sleeping pills
  • diet pills, "stay awake" drugs, and other medications with stimulants such as caffeine, ephedrine, or pseudoephedrine.

Never combine alcohol and medication before driving and be careful of taking more than one medication at a time unless you have been advised by a pharmacist or doctor that they do not combine to cause drowsiness. Be aware that pills containing stimulants may cause excitability or drowsiness.

Be Informed

If you need to drive while taking medication, get all the information you can to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the road. Continue to take your medication in the dosage and times you were prescribed but talk to your doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects so you are prepared. You can request a print-out of the potential risks and side effects for any medication. It is very important to provide a complete record of all the medications you are taking including OTC and herbal products so your doctor or pharmacist can advise about any dangerous overlaps or potential side effects.

With adequate information your doctor may be able to:

  • adjust the dose of your medication
  • adjust the timing of doses or when you use the medicine to work around key driving times
  • add an exercise or nutrition program to decrease the need for medicine
  • change the medicine to one that causes less drowsiness or other undesirable side effects that could affect your ability to drive

If you have spoken to your doctor and taken all reasonable precautions but you still feel unsafe to drive, it might be best to look into transportation alternatives. Consider asking for a ride from a friend or family member, taking public transportation, walking, taxi cabs, shuttles buses, or vans. Many senior centers and religious or other local service groups offer transportation services for older adults in the community.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!

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