Medical Marijuana And OVI / DUI In Ohio

Medical Marijuana In Ohio
Medical marijuana became legal in Ohio in 2016.  The law permits Ohio patients with a physician recommendation to obtain a medical marijuana card from the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy.  With a valid medical marijuana card, a patient in Ohio may purchase marijuana products at retail dispensaries and ingest that marijuana to treat over 20 medical conditions.  Due to delays in administrative regulations, Ohio’s medicinal marijuana program did not become operational until 2019.  With the program in operation, an increasing number of people in Ohio will be dispensed medicinal marijuana.  That means an increasing number of drivers in Ohio will be using marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Use Can Lead To DUI / OVI In Ohio
The active ingredient in marijuana, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinal), may affect driving ability.  THC binds with receptors in the brain and causes behavioral and cognitive effects such as euphoria, relaxed inhibitions, altered time and space perception, drowsiness, and lack of concentration.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), marijuana impairs time and distance estimation, increases reaction time, and decreases car handling performance.

Based on marijuana’s potential for affecting driving ability, Ohio law prohibits operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana (referred to as DUI/OVI ‘impaired’).  The law also criminalizes operating a vehicle with a prohibited concentration of marijuana or marijuana metabolite in a driver’s blood or urine (referred to as DUI/OVI ‘per se’).  There are four distinct prohibitions related to marijuana and vehicle operation.  A discussion of those four laws is on this website’s page ‘Four Types of Marijuana OVI/DUI In Ohio’.  The laws related to DUI / OVI marijuana apply to everyone in Ohio, including patients with valid medical marijuana cards.

How DUI / OVI Marijuana Is Proven
When a police officer comes into contact with a driver suspected of being under the influence of marijuana, the officer typically administers several tests.  At the scene, the officer may administer standardized field sobriety tests, as well as non-standardized field sobriety tests.  After an arrest, an officer may administer a Drug Recognition Evaluation and request that the driver submit to a blood or urine test.  The officer completes reports containing the officer’s observations, witness statements, test results and other evidence.  The officer submits the evidence to the prosecuting attorney.  The prosecuting attorney then uses that evidence in court in an effort to prove the driver is guilty of DUI/OVI.

Possible Defense To DUI/OVI For Medical Marijuana Card Holders
For the charge of DUI/OVI ‘per se’, there is an affirmative defense in Ohio law.  The law states that the ‘per se’ prohibition does not apply to a person who operates a vehicle with a prohibited concentration of a controlled substance if the controlled substance was obtained pursuant to a prescription from a licensed health professional AND the controlled substance was ingested in accordance with the health professional’s directions.  It is questionable whether this affirmative defense applies to marijuana because health professionals ‘make a recommendation’ for medical marijuana rather than ‘write a prescription’.  Although this affirmative defense may apply to ‘per se’ DUI/OVI charges, it does not apply to ‘impaired’ DUI/OVI charges.  Even if the marijuana was ingested in accordance with a health professional’s directions, it is still illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana.

Representation For Marijuana DUI / OVI In Ohio
Cases involving marijuana DUI / OVI are complex.  If you are facing such a charge, you may want representation by a lawyer who has expertise and experience with these types of cases.  The lawyers at the Dominy Law Firm have that expertise and experience.  If you have a marijuana DUI/OVI case in central Ohio and would like to discuss representation, you can schedule a free phone consultation by completing a CONTACT FORM or by calling 614-717-1177.

Four Types Of Marijuana OVI/DUI In Ohio
Testing For Marijuana OVI/DUI In Ohio
OVI/DUI Marijuana In Ohio

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