Changes in Washington Practice Report (#8) / DUIs, legal marijuana, and 2014

December 30, 2013

Washington State LawThis is installment #8 in a continuing series of Changes in Washington Practice Reports.

Under Initiative Measure 502, Washington State has legalized the use and sale of marijuana, subject to detailed controls.

As a result, the treatment of the Driving Under the Influence (DUI) statutes for consumption of alcohol—and driving—have been extended to also apply to the consumption of marijuana—and driving.

Information about DUIs and marijuana in Washington State may be found in the Washington Practice series.

Attorneys may start off searches with a review of the resource materials provided in Methods of Practice, which will lead to the desired sources within the series, or may search directly through the volumes to locate the desired discussion.

This topic is covered in the 2013-2014 edition of the Washington DUI Practice Manual

by Linda M. Callahan, volume 32 of Washington Practice.

Callahan has provided background regarding Initiative 502 in Chapter 1, noting that:

“The measure provided for licensing and regulation of marijuana production, distribution and possession for persons 21 and older; removed Washington State criminal…and civil…penalties; taxed marijuana sales…; and…imposed the maximum threshhold of THC in drivers 21 and older at 5.00 nanograms per milliliter of blood….”

Related federal law has not changed.

THC stands for Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

In Chapter 12, she notes that a driver under age 21 may be convicted of DUI with any measureable level of THC in the blood.

The requirements regarding the required procedure for blood testing (usually with a warrant, by a person licensed to draw blood) are addressed in Chapter 26.

It is interesting to look further into the procedures that are being set up for the recreational sale of marijuana in 2014.

Most of the regulations for sales networks are now in place.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) has set up complex procedures for licensing growers, distributors and sales outlets for marijuana.

The adopted rules may be found at www.liq.wa.gov.

The DUI rules appear under WAC 46.61.502 and WAC 46.61.503:

“A person is guilty (of DUI)…if…(t)he person has, within two hours of driving, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s blood….”

The long-term effect of Initiative 502 on DUI arrests and convictions has yet to be determined.

The long-term market for retail sales also has yet to be established. It is not clear how those setting up such licensed production, distribution, and sales businesses will fare.

Additional information about DUIs may be found in Washington Practice volume 32 , and by making use of the extracts, summaries and other legal resource materials to be found in Methods of Practice, volumes 1 to 1C of Washington Practice, by Cheryl Mitchell and Ferd Mitchell of Mitchell Law Office.