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Why Virginia might change DUI laws to include marijuana consumption limits

Posted at 12:22 PM, Dec 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-05 12:23:54-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia State Crime Commission is meeting Monday to discuss proposed policy changes to DUI laws in the Commonwealth.

One of the policy options being talked about is repealing or amending Virginia’s current prohibition on stops, searches and seizures based solely on the odor of marijuana.

Right now, police can not stop someone just because they smell marijuana in a vehicle since those 21 and older can legally possess up to one ounce in Virginia.

Another policy option being considered is allowing police to preliminary screen a driver’s saliva for the presence of drugs in DUI cases.

This all comes as a study conducted earlier this year shows there’s lack of consistency when it comes to statistics around drug impaired driving.

One reason for that, according to the State Crime Commission, is there is a lack of toxicology testing for drivers involved in fatal and nonfatal crashes. Virginia also does not currently report whether drugs were detected in drivers who have died in crashes.

Rich Jacobs with DRIVE SMART Virginia said his team supports one of the commission’s policy options, which would create a clear guideline or limit of marijuana that someone could have in their system when driving. The policy option would add a 3ng/mL (or three nanograms per milliliter) per se limit for marijuana (THC) in DUI cases.

"We'd like to see a law that is as enforceable as Virginia's DUI law for alcohol, which is where you have a measurable standard," explained Jacobs. "But also, we want to get across educationally to the public that if you feel different, you drive different. It's that simple. And there's no safe amount of alcohol or any other impairing substance to get behind the wheel."

However, organizations like NORML have published studies that claim "per se" limits on cannabis aren't consistent predictors of behavioral or psychomotor impairment and the results of those tests may convict someone who consumed cannabis at some unspecified point in time, but were no longer under its influence while behind the wheel.

The Crime Commission noted they do have information on alcohol and crashes, including that approximately one-third of all crashes in Virginia and the U.S. involve an alcohol-impaired driver.

The recommendations discussed during Monday's meeting could appear as bills that would go before the General Assembly when they meet next month.

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