July 29, 2021 | Ohio Law
Slowly but surely, governments across the country are decriminalizing recreational marijuana. In Ohio, the cities of Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo – as well as dozens of others – have voted to drop or significantly reduce penalties associated with possession of small amounts of the controversial drug.
Now the issue is set to take center stage at the state level, once again. Democratic lawmakers in Ohio are set to introduce a new bill to make marijuana legal in the Buckeye State.
But, as our own founding partner Joe Suhre explained to WCPO 9 News in Cincinnati, the state really needs to address marijuana OVI testing and protocols before it legalizes the drug. If it doesn’t, Ohio drivers might enjoy the freedom to use marijuana, but ultimately face drugged driving charges – even if they’re not really “under the influence” when they’re behind the wheel.
Here’s what you need to know.
An Overview of Ohio’s Newest Proposal For Legalized Recreational Marijuana
Democratic lawmakers in the Buckeye State are set to introduce legislation that would effectively legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.
Under the proposed law, it would be legal for adults 21+ to:
- Possess up to 5 ounces of marijuana
- Cultivate and possess up to 12 plants for personal use.
Additionally, the law would provide opportunities to have prior convictions for possession and cultivation expunged. That means having some crimes removed from criminal records and not forcing individuals to live with the collateral consequences of minor possession and cultivation charges – at least those that would be legal under the newly proposed law.
Marijuana DUI Charges Could Increase If Recreational Marijuana is Legalized
It’s important to consider that while criminal drug charges might change, it would still be illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana.
The thresholds established under Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.19 are:
- Blood THC level: 2 ng/ml
- Blood THC metabolite level: 50 ng/ml
- Urine THC level: 15 ng/ml
- Urine THC metabolite level: 35 ng/ml
Testing above one of those levels will result in criminal charges for drugged driving.
Ohio Lacks Adequate THC Testing Mechanisms and Protocols
How can a police officer know if someone is driving under the influence of marijuana? There’s really no way to know for sure. Officers can certainly suspect that a motorist has smoked or consumed marijuana based on a number of circumstantial factors – like erratic driving behaviors, visible smoke in or coming out of the vehicle, driver appearance, and/or odor in or around the vehicle.
However, there’s currently no way to test for levels of THC in the field.
And, once the tests are performed, the results are highly objective. Just because someone tests above the legal threshold does not really mean that they’re impaired or unable to drive.
Marijuana takes a very long time to clear the system – the presence of THC could be detected in the blood or urine for a long time after ingestion or consumption. It can be found in the blood for up to 36 hours, and in urine for anywhere from 3 days to more than a month in urine. The more regularly a person uses marijuana, the longer it’ll take to clear from their system.
If recreational marijuana were legalized in Ohio, it could lead to a significant increase in the number of marijuana OVI arrests and charges across the state.
Ohio Needs to Invest in Better THC Detection Systems Before Legalizing Recreational Marijuana
It’s simple: something has to change before Ohio formally decriminalizes recreational marijuana. When legalized, people might avoid criminal drug charges for marijuana but find themselves staring down an unexpected OVI – even if they didn’t use marijuana very recently.
Currently, a first OVI offense is punishable by at least 3 days (and as many as 6 months) in jail, a fine of up to $1,075, and a driver’s license suspension. Testing systems must be better before Ohio residents are faced with these harsh consequences.
In that situation, it would be critical to enlist the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Cincinnati or elsewhere in the state of Ohio – particularly someone with extensive experience handling drug-related DUIs.
Contact the Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Cincinnati
600 Vine Street, Suite 1004
Cincinnati, OH 45202