While recreational and medical marijuana usage become legal in Illinois in January of 2020, there are still stipulations attached to marijuana usage in the state. While consumption of cannabis is legal, there are age restrictions for use, as well as other restrictions for public use and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. For those who did not pay much attention to the legalization of marijuana in the state, there can be concerns about marijuana usage and confusion about marijuana laws.
While we all know that you shouldn't drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, sometimes mistakes happen. A single mistake should not be the end of your driving privileges, your clean record, or the path you are on. If you have been arrested for or charged with driving under the influence of cannabis, and are facing criminal penalties, call the Dohman Law Group today to talk over your options.
In Illinois, the legal amounts of marijuana a person can have in their possession depend on the type of marijuana. If you have the raw plant buds, also called flower colloquially, you can legally possess up to 30 grams on your person. If you have food (edibles) or drinks (drink-ables) infused with THC, you can carry up to 500 mg on your person. And if you have oils or concentrates, such as THC vapes or "dabs", you can carry up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrate with you.
There are also limits on where THC (the active chemical in marijuana) products can be consumed. In the state of Illinois, they must be consumed or smoked in your home or inside of businesses related to medical and recreational marijuana sales, such as THC-based bakeries, or dispensaries.
Similar to drunk driving prosecution, driving under the influence of cannabis has increasing tiers of punishment, based on your number of DUI offenses. For a first offense, those found guilty of driving under the influence of cannabis will face a suspension for their driving privileges for 6-12 months, a $2,500 fine, and up to 1 year in prison.
For your second offense, you will face 2-3 years of license suspension, a larger fine, and up to 3 years in prison. You may also be required to submit to drug-related counseling or drug treatment through a rehabilitation facility, as well as be assigned days of community service to complete. More DUI arrests may find you facing the loss of driving privileges for many years, with no option to appeal or gain a restricted driving permit.
Learn More: How to Beat a DUI in Illinois
Sadly, this is entirely possible. For habitual users, and for chronic users, of THC, it is entirely possible to fail chemical testing even if you have not smoked in hours or days. THC builds up in the fat cells of your body, and is slowly released into your bloodstream and then flushed from your body through your urine. For people who smoke regularly, the THC builds up faster than it can be flushed out, meaning that you can test higher than the legal limit even if you have not smoked or consumed cannabis recently, and are not high.
The legal limit of THC in your system is a blood concentration of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter, of 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of any other bodily substance. This could be saliva or urine samples. For habitual users, it is extremely possible to have more than 5 nanograms in your body at all times until your body burns through the THC stored in your fat cells.
These limits are not applicable to medical cannabis users, as the state recognizes that those using THC products for medical use most likely consume THC daily and will, therefore, always have a higher amount of THC in their system during chemical testing.
The most important thing you can do if you are a THC consumer is to be prepared before you are pulled over. Always carry your medical cannabis card on your person. Make sure that all of your THC products are sealed in tamper-evident containers and are not visible from outside your car. Do not consume cannabis or THC products if you will be driving in the next 4-5 hours.
If you are pulled over, you are not required to allow law enforcement officers to search your vehicle, and you are not required to answer any questions without your DUI defense attorney present or submit to any types of sobriety testing, whether these are chemical tests via bodily substance or physical performance tests. You should be aware, however, that refusing field sobriety tests will lead to your immediate arrest.
Illinois has recently adopted the "plain smell" law, which means that even though medical and recreational use of cannabis is legal in the state of Illinois, the smell of marijuana is enough probable cause for a warrantless search by a police officer. The sight of marijuana or paraphernalia is also enough reasonable suspicion to allow a warrantless search of your vehicle. This is why it is important that all of your THC products are located inside odor-proof, child-proof, tamper-evident containers and placed in compartments inside of your car.
The most important step you should take if facing a marijuana DUI charge is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Whether you're facing criminal charges for driving under the influence, you were carrying over the legal limit of THC products on your person or in your car, or you were charged with a DUI for your blood-THC content while not high, the Dohman Law Group is here to help you. With more than 40 years as criminal defense lawyers in the Chicago area, we will do everything we can to have your charges dropped or lessened, and make sure your case ends with the best possible outcome.