Is it a Sin to Smoke and Drive?
The State of Play for Nevada Marijuana Use
The dangers of drunk driving have long been recognized, and the associated penalties are clear-cut. But what if you are injured by someone driving under the influence of marijuana? Laws surrounding marijuana use are sweeping across the U.S., and Nevada is no exception. In 2017, it was Nevada’s turn to legalize recreational marijuana use. Here, we examine the state of play for driving under the influence of marijuana in Las Vegas.
Amid all of the nationwide upheaval relating to cannabis use, if you are injured by a marijuana user, you need to know where Las Vegas stands in the scheme of things. So first — is it a situation that is actually taken seriously? The answer is “absolutely.” Driving under the influence of marijuana is taken extremely seriously in Las Vegas — as seriously as driving drunk.
If you are injured by someone intoxicated by marijuana, your best bet is to hire an experienced lawyer. Laws and testing procedures are relatively new, and there are many instances where charges have had to be dropped for lack of proof. For drugged-driving offenders, the first offense is typically a misdemeanor, and jail can usually be avoided if the defendant pays a fine and completes other sentencing terms. When there is a first-time conviction for DUI of marijuana, on top of the fine, a driver may also have to attend DUI school, participate in a victim impact panel, and cop a three-month driver’s license suspension.
Drugged-driving tests are also carried out in Las Vegas, which means even if a driver seems to be operating the car safely, they can still face a DUI for having at least two nanograms/ml of marijuana in their blood. However, Nevada drivers are allowed to carry 1 oz. or less of marijuana in their car as long as it is kept out of view, in a spot such as the trunk or glove compartment.
A commonly asked question is “how can police know if a person has been using marijuana?” Police do have effective ways of identifying when a person has been under the influence of drugs while driving. A person driving erratically is usually asked to submit to a breath test, and if they pass, there are other tests police look for, including:
- Failure to walk in a straight line
- A pot smell
- Dilated pupils
- Overly relaxed behavior
Police can also undergo Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE) training and check for dry mouth and unusual blood pressure. If they can determine the probable cause of reckless driving is drug use, the driver can be taken to the police station for a blood test.
In the first year since Nevada legalized marijuana on July 1, 2017, the number of DUIs with marijuana as the sole cause increased markedly. Whether or not marijuana was the cause, in that one-year span Nevada experienced a 10-year spike in overall traffic fatalities. Since recreational sales of marijuana became legal, traffic deaths in Nevada increased 6.4% from 2017 to 2018. Thankfully, however, those numbers have eased. In the second year since marijuana use was legalized, fatality numbers eased by about 30%.
As with drunk driving, if you are a victim of drugged driving, you have rights to compensation. But you do need to hire a reputable and experienced law firm, because statistically, alcohol DUIs are easier to prove than marijuana DUIs. Another reason to hire an experienced lawyer is that marijuana DUI laws are constantly being assessed and could be subject to change in the near future. The legislative session has already commissioned studies, and the legal limit for driving with marijuana in the body could change in the coming years.
With over 85 years of combined legal experience, you can trust Shook & Stone to handle your personal injury case in Las Vegas, Nevada. We can provide options and advice in the event you are injured by someone intoxicated by marijuana.
Contact us for a free case consultation today!