Everyone knows driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal. However, now that marijuana use is legal in Massachusetts, drivers need to understand the rules about driving after smoking or ingesting this drug.
While the law states that it is illegal to drive under marijuana's influence, law enforcement is finding it challenging to test drivers for this drug. According to National Public Radio, there is not a roadside test to definitely test for recent marijuana use. Because it stays in your system for weeks at a time, a positive chemical test cannot prove that the driver had just smoked a joint. Typical field sobriety tests have also not been shown scientifically to prove someone is high, so it isn't a reliable way to determine a DUI of marijuana. A new iPad app has just been developed that may, along with subjective judgment of the police officer, play a role in testing for marijuana. Research around this app and other scientific tests are currently being conducted.
According to the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the penalties for driving after smoking marijuana can be the same as for driving under the influence of alcohol. If a driver is convicted of marijuana use and driving, he or she may face one of the following:
- Fine between $500 and $5,000, or
- Jail time up to 2 1/2 years or
- Both a fine and jail time
Drivers may also have their licenses suspended for anywhere from 30 days to 6 months. Repeat offenders face even stiffer penalties for each subsequent conviction. It has not been determined if this will be the case for marijuana users.