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Can I Get a DUI in Chicago for Being Under the Influence of Marijuana?

Marijuana DUI laws in Chicago are complex but important to understand. Thanks to a 2016 law, Illinois now considers marijuana in a similar way as alcohol when it comes to driving. Before this law, the state had a zero tolerance policy, which meant drivers could be arrested and charged after driving with any amount of THC in their system. The old system did not consider impairment at all when it comes to marijuana. In fact, given that any THC amount could be considered “under the influence,” someone could be charged with a marijuana DUI weeks after their last use of marijuana.

While you can’t get a DUI simply for having THC in your system, you can get a DUI for being considered impaired by marijuana behind the wheel. This new system isn’t perfect, but it attempts to find an equivalent to the 0.08 BAC limit with alcohol in terms of determining impairment.

What Is the Legal Limit for Marijuana?
Under the new Illinois marijuana DUI law, someone can be charged with DUI if they have more than 5 ng of THC per mL of whole blood or 10 ng of THC per mL of a different bodily substance. This law is designed to create a limit to determine when someone is impaired by marijuana, although it’s not perfect. According to a recent federal study, 13 ng of THC per mL of blood is the best equivalent to the 0.08 BAC with alcohol in terms of impairment.

This limit is the same as other states like Washington, which adopted the 5 ng/mL limit in 2012. In other states like Ohio and Nevada, the limit is much lower at just 2 ng/mL.

DUI Can Be Charged Below the Limit
Despite changes to Illinois’ DUI laws, there is still an older law in place that makes it a DUI if you drive under the influence of marijuana. This is similar to the law that applies to alcohol. During a trial, this would need to be proven through the testimony of the arresting officer that the defendant was impaired by marijuana use.

You can be found guilty of a DUI even if you are lower than the legal THC limit if the court determines you were impaired enough that you could not safely drive.

Medical Marijuana and DUI in Chicago
Illinois passed its Medical Cannabis Act in 2013, becoming the 20th state to decriminalize marijuana for medical purposes. Under this law, someone who is prescribed marijuana can become a registered user and receive a medical marijuana registry card to buy cannabis from a dispensary.

The Medical Cannabis Act makes it very clear that registered users do not have a pass or defense against a DUI charge. Being legally entitled to use marijuana does not mean you can drive while impaired and you may still be charged, even if your THC level is below the new legal limit.

Field Sobriety Tests and Marijuana
When you are pulled over for a suspected DUI, you will likely be asked to submit to field sobriety tests. These tests are not considered a valid type of testing for alcohol, but Illinois law considers them valid in cases that involve marijuana DUIs.

Registered medical marijuana users are treated differently than others when charged with a DUI when it comes to the field sobriety tests. A registered user who fails field sobriety tests faces a 6-month license suspension. This penalty is increased to 12 months for registered users who refuse the tests. Registered users who fail or refuse cannot obtain a monitoring device driving permit for driving privileges. Non-registered users can get a permit for provisional privileges when their license is suspended for a marijuana DUI.

Every Person Is Affected Differently
There are many factors that determine how easily you can reach the legal limit for THC. Factors like height, weight, marijuana potency, and metabolism can all affect how fast marijuana is filtered through the system. In general, experts recommend waiting at least 3 hours after using marijuana before driving. Even a slight feeling of being buzzed can correlate to your blood level of THC exceeding the legal limit in Chicago.