Drunk Driving vs High Driving: What Does the Law Say?

By Hanna Anderson

Up until recent marijuana has been a very conservative topic among the public. However, more countries are passing legislation to legalize it for medical and recreational use or to decriminalize it. More than 20 US states have legalized marijuana in one way or another but only five of them have regulated the substance for recreational use.

High Driving in the US

Most countries have zero tolerance for driving under the influence of Marijuana. State laws of Colorado, Washington, Washington DC, Oregon, and Alaska regulate the usage of cannabis for recreational use. But, ever since those states made marijuana legal, driving under the influence of this drug became more present. So, the state officials became aware of the problem and the marijuana impaired driving had to be regulated.

Since Colorado was the first state to legalize the substance for non-medical use, the officials decided to make the legal limit of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol - psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) in the blood which would be safe to drive with. So the state law says it is allowed to drive with five nanograms of marijuana’s main substance per milliliter of blood. 

Washington state was the next to follow Colorado in legalizing marijuana, as well as in introducing driving laws. The allowed limit is now the same in both states, with more states to vote for similar legislation in the near future.

Canada on the path of Legalizing Marijuana

Canada began the process of legalizing marijuana when Justin Trudeau became the Prime Minister. Among the other aspects of the drug, it is important to regulate driving under the influence of it, like in some US states. It’s still uncertain how the whole process will turn out, but Canada can look up to US state laws in preparing marijuana-impaired driving law.

Problem with Measuring Marijuana-Impairment Driving

When it comes to drunk driving, it’s obvious. States and countries around the world have their legal limit of the percentage of alcohol in the blood (or have zero tolerance) for driving. It’s measured with a breathalyzer device or by taking a blood test. Certainly, different people react differently to alcohol, but the impairment at some point is the same.

How much of smoking marijuana are five nanograms, no one can say? It depends on person's daily habits, on how much THC was inhaled, or how well does individual’s body metabolize THC. 

Drunk Driving vs High Driving Infographic

The infographic from OMQ law firm explains what is the difference between Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), how alcohol and THC levels are measured, and what the existing penalties are. 

Let's take a look at what is considered illegal in these two countries, and the differences between them.