Red Lodge, Montana

HB 168 – Marijuana and DUI in Montana

Montana has been viewed, at least in this writer’s eyes, as one of the last free and wide-open states in the union. This is due, in some part, to the lag in the reformation of laws regarding certain public health and safety issues. Montana mottos such as “smoke in the bars and drink in your cars” have long gone unsaid due to changes in Montana legislature during recent years.  While I am not condoning any of the behavior discussed, it has come to my attention that a new law has gone into effect as Montana jumps on yet another bandwagon in their attempts to keep our roads safer.

marijuana headerI am speaking of HB 168, a state law which took effect on October 1. HB 168 states that any driver with an active concentration of THC (the most enticing of ingredients found in marijuana) is subject to a Driving Under the Influence citation within the State of Montana. Similar to the legal limit of 0.08 BAC, regarding alcohol intoxication, the concentration of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood (or ng/ml) has been set as the threshold of impairment in marijuana users. This law may have previously been known only to the 8,000 or so card holders on the Montana Marijuana Registry as they were the only citizens subject to “DUI Weed” before October 1st. HB 168, however, targets both legal and illegal users.

While it is difficult to take a stand against a DUI law, considering it is in place “for our safety,” many active marijuana users would argue that “too stoned to drive” is an infrequently spoken phrase. Especially when you consider exactly how much, or in this case how little, 5 ng/ml actually is.  A recent study (conducted by CBS affiliate KIRO 7 in Washington state) shows that users who puffed on just one third of a gram tested between 20 and 26 ng/ml, yet passed driving tests with flying colors. It seems that merely glancing at weed before you drive could put you over the legal limit.. The other side of that argument would state that, with most marijuana users, the level of concentration would fall to under 5 ng/ml around three hours after consumption.

Those convicted of this narco-DUI are subject to the same penalties and consequences as a person that is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. And for those users that are willing to smoke “spice” to get high when herb is no longer an option: another new law that went into effect on the same day (HB 140) has now made that illegal. And I am sure an active investigation is in place to charge you with a DUI for using spice as well.

All 50 states have adopted some form of this DUI-Weed law, all with the limit set at 5 ng/ml. So, for now, remove your “I don’t drink and drive, I smoke and fly!” bumper stickers, and wait at least 3 hours after smoking up to get behind the wheel. Stay safe out there!

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2 Responses

  1. Also, the law is so silly because someone who may have not smoked in weeks could still come up as positive and get in trouble. Crazy

    • That whole issue is much more complicated than the author of this article could possibly explain in that much space. The rate at which THC levels in the bloodstream decline varies depending on many factors. For a casual once-a-month user, it disappears very quickly. For a medical marijuana user who smokes or ingests every day, the levels stay up much longer due to the tolerance the body develops. The 5ng/ml level was a pretty arbitrary decision.

      I think the bottom line is that if you have any doubt about whether your driving ability is impaired, you SHOULD NOT DRIVE! Whether you’re a recreational or medicinal user, whether it’s legal or illegal, driving impaired is a bad idea no matter what the law says.