Use medical marijuana? You can be charged with a DUI — even if you're not impaired – WTAE Pittsburgh

Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are looking to change this “absurd” loophole.
Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are looking to change this “absurd” loophole.
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Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are looking to change this “absurd” loophole.
A Pennsylvania law allows medical marijuana patients to be charged with driving under the influence even if they are not impaired.
Patients and even prosecutors are trying to change the law.
More than 500,000 Pennsylvanians have medical marijuana prescriptions. Jesse Roedts is one of them.
In 2019, he was pulled over at a DUI checkpoint in Williamsport. An officer asked him if he had any drugs.
“I told them I had no illegal drugs. I just had medical cannabis that was in the bed of my truck,” Roedts said.
Police told him to pull into a parking lot where they took his medical marijuana from the back of his truck.
Then they had to do a field sobriety test. In court, an officer testified that he passed the test.
But he was still charged with DUI after blood tests found he had trace amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Pennsylvania law says if you have any amount of marijuana in your system, you can be charged with a DUI, even if you are a medical marijuana patient and you’re not impaired.
“A patient can be arrested, prosecuted and convicted despite being 100 percent stone-cold sober,” said Pittsburgh attorney Patrick Nightingale, a medical marijuana patient and legalization advocate.
Nightingale said he takes cannabis before bed and the intoxicating effects have long worn off by the next morning. But there are still some chemicals like carboxy associated with marijuana in his system.
“I have my coffee. I drive to work. I go to court. However, I will have detectable carboxy in my blood and that’s enough for a DUI under current law,” Nightingale said.
State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington County, is trying to change the law.
“They can get a DUI, even if they have no problem driving a vehicle whatsoever,” she said.
Bartolotta said medical marijuana is the only prescription drug that can get you a DUI without evidence of impairment.
“If an officer sees that you even have a prescription with you, you could get charged with a DUI? That’s absurd. No one would think that that’s ok,” she said.
After his arrest made the local newspaper, Roedts — a teacher and fire inspector –had to explain not only the DUI but his medical history.
“I had to go to my employers and reveal personal and private medical information and tell them I was a medical cannabis user just to keep my job,” he said.
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