All You Need To Know About DUI Marijuana Law In California

MJLegal is published by the MJBA.

CALIFORNIA: On November 8, 2016, Proposition 64 was passed in the state of California, legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana. On January 1, 2018, this law came into effect.

According to Proposition 64, any person aged 21 and over may purchase, possess and consume up to an ounce (28 grams) of cannabis or up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate, and they may also grow up to 6 marijuana plants at their private residence.

In January 2018,  California became the eighth state to legalize marijuana, joining the likes of Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts. But while you may be 21 and over in California, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana in the state.

Arresting someone for a weed-influenced DUI is certainly not as easy as arresting someone for drunk driving. There is no “per se” level like the one for alcohol (0.08%), at least in California, and there are no simple tools like the Breathalyzer to instantly gauge if someone’s driving impaired.

This has created a substantial challenge for police officers in the state, with them having to rely on subjective judgments to determine whether a person is driving under the influence of marijuana.

But California does employ drug recognition experts trained specifically to conduct tests and identify cannabis-related impairment, so if you do get arrested, it’s important to know how to handle a Pot DUI charge.


23152(e) VC – Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
● 23152(f) VC – Driving Under the Combined Influence of Alcohol and Drugs
● Unlawful Possession of Marijuana for Personal Use


If you are arrested for violating 23152(e) VC or 23152(f) VC, you will be subjected to a standard Breathalyzer test used to detect alcohol impairment.

If the test comes up negative or low, and the officer has a reasonable suspicion of drug-related impairment, you will be asked to submit to a blood test or a urine test if you cannot take a blood test or if blood testing facilities are unavailable.

If you refuse to take a blood or urine test while under arrest, your driver’s licence will be suspended for a year, regardless of whether you are later convicted of driving under the influence or not.


Like any other instance of DUI, drug-related DUI is typically charged as a misdemeanor. The penalties imposed would depend on the case and the defendant’s prior DUI convictions, if any.

● 23152(e) VC

If the defendant is convicted under the California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e) VC, their driving license would be suspended for a period of 6 months for a first-time conviction. The period of suspension may be longer with a record of prior DUI convictions.

First-time offenders may have to spend 3 months or more in DUI school, and may also have to spend time in jail depending on the case. The punishments increase with second and third convictions.

● 23152(f) VC

If the defendant’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is found to be more than 0.08% after a blood test, and they are convicted under the California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) VC, their driving license would be suspended for a period of 6 months for a first-time conviction. The period of suspension may be longer with a record of prior DUI convictions.

The defendant may be placed on summary probation for 3 to 5 years, and they may have to serve jail time and attend DUI school for 3 months or more. The punishments increase with second and third convictions.

A defendant’s fourth or higher conviction is treated as a ‘wobbler’ offense, which can be treated either as a felony or a misdemeanor.

● Unlawful Possession of Marijuana

Possession of marijuana in excess of 28 grams or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of $500.

Possession of marijuana under those limits by anyone aged 18-20 is punishable by a fine of $100 and mandatory drug counseling and/or community service.

If faced with any of these charges, you should consult with a DUI lawyer with years of experience in handling such cases. A lawyer would be your best bet to prepare a solid defense that will get you the best result possible.

With the legalization of weed, you can now get your favorite strain of marijuana at any one of several registered dispensaries all over the state, and you can even get it delivered to your doorstep when you buy weed online.

But it’s not legal to drive under the influence of marijuana, and you would be best served abiding by the law in California.

Ohio Students’ Device to Detect Marijuana Use By Motorists

OHIO: Two Ohio graduate students have invented a device that will allow law enforcement officers to determine whether motorists have used marijuana.

The Plain Dealer reports  that two biomedical engineering graduate students at the University of Akron hope to market their roadside testing device to states where marijuana use has been legalized.

Mariam Crow and Kathleen Stitzlein’s device tests saliva to determine the concentration of pot’s active chemical in the bloodstream. Police must now wait weeks to get results from blood tests for marijuana use.

Feds: No link Between Pot And Car Crashes

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Marijuana use has not been found to increase the risk of car crashes, according to a new federal report.

Studying car accidents in Virginia Beach, Va., during a 20-month period ending in 2012, researchers randomly sampled 3,000 accident-involved drivers and found no evidence suggesting those with marijuana in their system were more prone to accidents, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report released Friday.

When researchers controlled for factors such as age and gender, they found no evidence marijuana use increases accident risks. This was despite the fact that, in the study, drivers who tested positive for marijuana use happened to be involved in more accidents.

By comparison, the study found drivers with breath alcohol of .08 to be about four times more likely than sober drivers to be involved in accidents. Those nearly double the legal limit, at .15, were 12 times more likely to crash.

The study is billed as the largest ever conducted to assess the relative crash risk of drivers who consume alcohol compared to pot.

Washington State Patrol Showcases Tools For Identifying Drugged Drivers

WASHINGTON:  Law enforcement officers in Washington are no longer just asking drivers if they’ve been drinking when they’re pulled over, as legalized marijuana in the state adds the question, “Have you smoked anything today?”

The Washington State Patrol on Wednesday brought in local drug recognition experts to explain the process for determining driver impairment during traffic stops for substances other than alcohol, which takes about 45 minutes and typically happens after an arrest has been made.

Bellevue Police Lt. Marcia Harnden said the effects of alcohol and marijuana are not only different, but the effects of marijuana can also differentiate among users based on factors like smoking-versus-ingesting and the potency of marijuana and its products.

“You don’t know if you’re drinking tequila marijuana or light beer marijuana,” she said.

While 5 nanograms per milligram is the limit for marijuana impairment through blood testing, it doesn’t mean a driver under the limit isn’t still impaired. It is also difficult to say how soon following consumption of marijuana a person should get behind the wheel.

More Pot, Safer Roads: Marijuana Legalization Could Bring Unexpected Benefits

WASHINGTON:  The anti-pot group Project SAM claims drug test data show that marijuana legalization in Washington, approved by voters in that state at the end of 2012, already has made the roads more dangerous. The group notes with alarm that the percentage of people arrested for driving under the influence of a drug (DUID) who tested positive for marijuana rose by a third between 2012 and 2013. [Read more…]