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Marijuana Legalization And Ohio OVI Law

As most people know, medical marijuana was legalized in Ohio in 2016 and medical cannabis sales through dispensaries became legal in 2019. While a obtaining a medical marijuana card enables individuals to use marijuana in accordance with a doctor's prescription, many individuals believe it is a free pass to use the marijuana in whatever manner; however, it is not. There are many restrictions on its use. For instance, an individual cannot smoke medical marijuana. Anyone prescribed medical marijuana should use it in accordance with a medical doctor's prescription both, in terms of the amount used and the method of use.

Additionally, a medical marijuana card is not a free pass to use marijuana whenever a patient wishes to use it. For instance, individuals with a medical marijuana card must be careful to not use it to the point of impairment and get behind the wheel. It is important to understand that even though marijuana is legal and readily available for medical purposes, the OVI laws have not changed. Just like any prescription medication, if a police officer has probable cause to believe an individual is impaired -regardless of whether the substance causing the impairment was taken legally or illegally-the officer can charge and arrest the individual with an OVI. Using medical marijuana and driving is extremely risky business. 

Another related and important consideration is the marijuana metabolite, which can stay in one's system for hours and even days after the individual is no longer experiencing the high from the psychoactive component of marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol or, "THC." In other words, the marijuana metabolite is not psychoactive or reflective of a present state of impairment. It is a byproduct of marijuana that can linger in a marijuana user's system long after the individual is high or even if they were not high to begin with. Unfortunately, however, the current OVI laws do not take that into consideration. If an individual suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence submits to a urine test and the results show the individual had the marijuana metabolite in his or her system, they are at risk for being convicted of an OVI, even though the individual may not be impaired by marijuana.

It is important medical marijuana users use marijuana consistent with their prescription. Further, they must be extremely careful to not get behind the wheel shortly after using it, even if they are using their prescription properly. Additionally, it is clear Ohio law needs to catch up with science and begin to measure THC in way that reflects actual, current impairment at the time the individual submits to a urine or blood test. The marijuana metabolite measurement is an inaccurate and thus, unfair method of determining impairment.

If you or someone you know would like to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney, feel free to call Rittgers & Rittgers for your free consultation. 

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