Marijuana laws in Ohio have become rather complicated in recent years. When medical marijuana became legal, we wrote an article called “Medical Marijuana: an OVI Trap?” We saw medical marijuana as a potential OVI trap because marijuana, unlike alcohol, can stay in a person’s system for weeks even if used legally. This means that methods used to detect alcohol in a driver’s system, such as urine or blood tests, may not always be as accurate with marijuana as they are with alcohol. However, the law still places a great deal of importance on ensuring that drivers are prohibited from driving while impaired. Even if you have the legal right to use medical marijuana, you still are prohibited from operating a vehicle while under the influence.
Difficulties with Marijuana and Drivers
Other marijuana laws in Ohio present a similar dilemma, such as the tolerance of delta-eight products by law enforcement. As we have discussed before, whether or not delta-eight THC is federally legal is currently unclear. But even if it is considered illegal, you may have seen delta-eight being consumed or even openly sold in stores with no repercussions from the authorities. (Note: we are not saying you will never suffer any legal repercussions for using delta-eight. We cover some, but probably not all, the risks of using delta-eight THC in our previous articles).
Even if you went through the proper channels to obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes, you are still using a federally scheduled substance, which makes any discussion about marijuana tricky. For the purposes of Ohio law, legalizing any form of marijuana created the problem of detecting whether or not a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Currently, if authorities suspect you of driving under the influence of marijuana, they can try to detect it in your system by testing your blood or your urine, similar to the way they would detect alcohol. When it comes to alcohol, if you are found to have a blood alcohol content over the legal limit, or if your urine is found to have too much alcohol in it, you can be charged with OVI.
How Does Ohio Law Determine Marijuana OVI?
To detect whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana, authorities can use similar metrics, just with different numbers. The Ohio Revised Code provides legal limits for how much marijuana can be in someone’s blood or urine for them to be considered OVI.
New Proposed Law
At the time of this article, the methods described above are legally used to determine if someone is OVI because of marijuana use. However, Ohio Senator Nathan Manning proposed Ohio Senate Bill 26, 135th General Assembly, which, if passed into law would make some significant changes to the process. First of all, the blood and urine tests would be used to detect certain levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (D9-THC) instead of “marihuana.” If a driver is over the legal limit for D9-THC, they would be considered OVI.
The proposed law also contains language could make it easier for OVI defendants to challenge the results of an OVI test. This could be helpful for a number of reasons. One reason is the fact that marijuana and alcohol interact very differently with the human metabolism. While a driver with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit almost certainly has just been drinking, significant amounts of marijuana could remain in someone’s blood for weeks or even over a month.
There are several things readers should be aware of. First, as we just mentioned, this law has not yet been passed, and you currently could be charged with marijuana OVI by the old metrics. Secondly, even if these methods of determining marijuana OVI were changed, it would still be highly illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. If law enforcement finds by any means that you are driving under the influence of marijuana, you could face serious legal consequences. Finally we would remind you of the current state of marijuana’s legality in general. It is still federally a schedule one substance, and it is considered illegal in Ohio unless you are using it medically. Furthermore, to use medical marijuana in a way that Ohio recognizes as legal, you must have the proper documentation from a doctor. Using marijuana without a medical doctor signing off on your use could get you in legal trouble even if you are using it to help you with a medical issue.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol always has been and always will be a crime in Ohio. As Ohio adjusts to its laws regarding marijuana, traffic laws are one aspect that has to be addressed. While the testing methods for marijuana OVI may change, Ohioans should be aware of applicable marijuana laws to their situation so that they remain on the right side of the law. If you have any legal questions or need any legal help, don’t hesitate to contact our expert attorneys at Dearie, Fischer & Martinson.