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Does a medical marijuana card defeat a DUI?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

After a long wait, the residents of South Dakota finally have access to medical marijuana. Since 2020, patients who meet the medical criteria can obtain a card that allows them to legally purchase and consume the drug.

That being the case, does a medical marijuana card trump a charge of driving under the influence (DUI)?

Not at all. Here’s what you need to know:

State law makes no distinction between legal and illegal intoxicants

Frankly, it doesn’t make any difference what’s causing your impairment. Sure, you can end up with a DUI because you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or higher. However, you can also end up with a DUI because:

  •     You’re under the influence of any drug not obtained by a valid prescription (including marijuana or even over-the-counter medication)
  •     You’re under the influence of a prescription drug (or a combo of drugs, including marijuana) that was obtained legally
  •     You’re under the influence of any combo of drugs, alcohol or another substance that leaves you incapable of operating your vehicle safely

The tricky issue with marijuana, of course, is that it isn’t as easy to determine exactly what makes a user intoxicated. Unlike BAC, which fairly reliably indicates just “how drunk” someone is when they’ve been drinking, marijuana can stay in your system long after the intoxicating effects wear off.

Plus, people tend to respond vastly differently to marijuana than they do alcohol. One person might be “buzzed” and unable to safely drive after a hit or two on a joint or a pipe, while a heavier user might not be impaired at all.

Your medical marijuana card won’t help you escape a DUI, but if your marijuana use does lead to drugged driving charges, you may have a multitude of defense options.