Ohio has joined 29 states and the District of Columbia to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
Defense attorney John Saia said medical marijuana, prescribed to relieve pain and nausea, could lead to legal headaches on Ohio’s road.
Saia said Ohio currently measures marijuana metabolite concentration in a driver’s urine or blood to determine whether they’re guilty of OVI.
Because THC stays in a person’s system for days, even weeks, Saia said a medical marijuana user would likely test over the legal limit even if they aren’t under the influence.
“My advice would be if you’re using, don’t drive. You would never operate a vehicle legally if you are partaking in the use of medical marijuana,” cautioned Saia.
A recent report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association shows in 2015, 57 percent of drivers killed behind the wheel were tested for drugs. Of those, more than 35 percent tested positive for marijuana.
In Washington, voters approved recreational marijuana use in 2012. Legal sales began in July of 2014. By July of 2015, THC positive drivers increased from 14.6 percent to more than 21 percent.
And in Colorado, which also allows recreational marijuana, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 48-percent in the three-years following legalization.
Ohio law enforcement officers, called Drug Recognition Experts, are trained to recognize signs of drug impairment, but Saia said a medical marijuana user doesn’t have to be impaired to be charged with OVI.
“Probably taking one hit off a marijuana joint would put you over that limit for quite some time,” said Saia.