Can you get arrested after smoking marijuana and driving?
Editor's note: The following is an "Ask a Trooper" column provided by Sergeant Jesse Grabow.
Question: What are the real facts on marijuana, and can you be arrested for driving after smoking it? How bad is it really? I know some people want to legalize it to tax it and for medicinal purposes. Thanks!
Answer: Yes, you can be arrested for impaired driving. Minnesota has already been taxing marijuana since around 1980 (and so we do not have to legalize it to tax it). As far as the medicinal purposes go, we have already had it for several years in Minnesota, although in pill form. Also, there are several other already-legal existing drugs that are reported to have the same (or close to the same) affect as smoking the weed, probably making the legalization of it for that reason unnecessary.
There is much information available in reference to the actual physical harm to the human body and to society as a whole, from smoking marijuana. Marijuana produces a carefree state of mind and the illusion that senses are extra sharp. In reality, you are more likely to be preoccupied with unusual thoughts or visions than your responsibilities as a driver. Relaxed inhibitions alter your sense of time and space, making it difficult to make quick decisions and judge distances and speed. Marijuana use causes slow, disconnected thoughts, poor memory and paranoia. Even hours after the effect seems to be gone, your ability to make driving decisions will still be impaired.
One of the last reports that came out showed that at least 17 percent of persons in addiction treatment are there because of the use of marijuana. It largely has a lot of the same hazardous chemicals that (legal) cigarettes do, and would continue to have those damaging effects even if made legal! Some of the health effects of smoking marijuana are known to include: exposure to known carcinogens (marijuana smoke contains up to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke!); impaired ability to create new memories; episodes of acute psychosis (from large ingested doses), which can include "hallucinations and a loss of personal identity"; and increased risk of chronic cough and bronchitis. New studies show much worse results for marijuana users.
Marijuana is known accurately as a gateway drug. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more teens were in treatment for marijuana than for all other illicit drugs combined in 2006. Fact: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2007, in some localities approximately 4 - 14 percent of drivers injured or killed in crashes tested positive for marijuana use. More results from their studies show that at least 9 percent of all marijuana users will become addicted; 17 percent of all marijuana users who start using in their teens will become addicted and between 25-50 percent of daily marijuana users become addicted!
Other effects are known to include: lower work productivity and earning power, persons functioning at a reduced intellectual level all or most of the time, extra sick days from work; respiratory illnesses, lower grade point averages, lower yearly earnings, lower levels of educational attainment, poor school attendance, negative attitude toward school, absences, tardiness for school and work, accidents, workers compensation claims, job turnover. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examining a certain group of workers showed that the marijuana users (compared to non-marijuana users in that vocation) had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries and 75 percent increase in absenteeism!
All figures were received from a marijuana fact sheet put out by the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) of Washington D.C. in January of 2012. They also cite numerous other sources for their publication. A lot more information is available if you look for it. Just a few weeks ago, I saw in the news that a long term study was recently completed. Not surprisingly, it revealed even more harmful results from smoking marijuana that known ever before.
If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow - Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, firstname.lastname@example.org)