The push to legalize marijuana in Maine is finally moving forward with the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy in position to finalize marijuana regulations. People in Maine who are looking forward to being able to legally buy marijuana, though, need to bear in mind that their rights are not absolute: They can still be pulled over, arrested, and charged for operating under the influence (OUI) if they are stoned.
Unlike drunk driving cases, marijuana OUIs rely heavily on officer testimony and do not have a set legal limit that makes you per se impaired. In many cases, this lack of objectivity can hurt OUI suspects.
Even though voters in Maine spoke up in the polls and approved recreational marijuana way back in November 2016, legal obstructionism from Governor Lepage’s office delayed and delayed the implementation of the law.
Now, though, legislation is going into effect. As early as the end of 2019, the Marijuana Office policy should be able to begin taking applications from stores that want to sell recreational marijuana.
This could mean that Mainers will see recreational marijuana for sale as early as Spring 2020.
Just because recreational marijuana is about to become legal and available should not give Mainers the idea that they can use it whenever they want. Just like with alcohol, marijuana makes the people who take it feel both good and bad at the same time. Just like with alcohol, marijuana can make you feel relaxed and happy.
And just like alcohol, marijuana can also impair your sensory perceptions, reduce your reaction time, and make you respond differently to stimuli than you would normally. Being under the influence of marijuana can make it unsafe for you to drive, and Maine law recognizes this by including marijuana in its OUI laws.
The main difference between OUIs involving alcohol and those involving marijuana is that there is no per se legal limit for marijuana. While driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.08% leads to a drunk driving charge, there is no set limit for marijuana or its active ingredient, THC.
This means that the major piece of evidence in marijuana OUI charges is the testimony of the officer who pulled you over. A lot of drugged driving accusations, therefore, fall into a “he said, she said” dispute between the defendant and the arresting officer – a dispute that the officer will almost always win because juries still find uniformed police officers more trustworthy than a criminal defendant.
The recreational use of marijuana is about to reach Maine, but that does not mean it is safe to smoke whenever you want. Unlike with alcohol, state law considers it a crime to smoke weed and then drive as any amount of marijuana present in your system equals a per se OUI charge.
Unlike with alcohol, the logistics for how to separate innocent drivers from dangerous ones have not been thought out in any meaningful way.
If you have been arrested and accused of driving while under the influence of marijuana in Portland, Saco, or Biddeford, call the OUI defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group at (207) 571-8146 or contact us online.
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