Even if you’re just driving your medicine home from the dispensary, or keeping it with you while driving around town, you need to know what’s allowed for medical cannabis patients. While cannabis laws differ from state to state, some basic guidelines can and do still apply. In this article, part of a series for folks new to cannabis, we share tips on how to avoid running into problems with law enforcement.
Medical cannabis laws are different in every state, so before driving with cannabis in your car, your first step should be to look up the law in your area. In some places, there are specific requirements about how to travel with cannabis, or when it’s OK to drive after consuming cannabis. Some states have laws related to the levels of THC in your bloodstream (similar to drunk driving laws). Others may require you to wait a certain amount of time after using cannabis before driving.
There may be parameters about how to store cannabis in your car, or how much you’re allowed to carry in your car. These are all important factors, so make sure you check out your local regulations before you start driving with cannabis in your car.
When driving or traveling with cannabis, keep your cannabis recommendation with you and make sure it’s easily accessible. This document is what lets law enforcement know that you’re a legal medical cannabis patient, and not someone in illegal possession of a controlled substance. Cannabis is a highly fragrant plant, and if you’re pulled over while driving, or stopped while traveling on foot, police may smell the medical marijuana and question you. Having your medical recommendation will show that your cannabis is legal and that you’re using it for medical purposes.
There has been some controversy about whether driving under the influence of cannabis impairs driving. While studies have shown that cannabis can mildly impair motor skills involved with driving, studies also show that cannabis can increase cautious behavior in drivers to make up for the impairment. Other studies suggest that chronic cannabis users aren’t affected by these impairments to the same extent or maybe even at all. Cannabis-related driving impairments vary greatly based on the individual and can depend on factors such as:
- your tolerance to cannabis.
- what type of cannabis you’re using.
- how long you’ve been using it.
- how your individual biochemistry reacts to it.
Still, one thing that all the research seems to agree on is that combining cannabis with alcohol can lead to greater impairment than you might see with either alone.
Depending on your tolerance, you may have more or less trouble driving with cannabis in your system. Still, driving under the influence of cannabis is prohibited in most states, and if you’re caught doing it, you could face DUI charges, fines or other penalties. Researchers advise that patients wait at least three hours after use before driving, and never use cannabis while actively driving. If you’re a passenger, you should also refrain from smoking or vaporizing in a moving vehicle, as you might accidentally intoxicate your driver.
Some states have requirements about where to keep your cannabis while traveling with it in your car. Due to concerns around driving while under the influence of marijuana, many states have laws similar to open container laws for alcohol. Whether or not your state has these laws, it’s a good idea to keep your medicine stowed in your trunk or in glove compartment. If you get pulled over and a police officer sees a pipe and open bag of cannabis sitting on the seat next to you, they might assume you’ve been using it while driving. Keeping it stowed away clearly demonstrates that it’s not currently in use.
To play it extremely safe, keep your cannabis products in a smell-proof container. If your products are out of sight and undetectable odor-wise, they won’t become a topic of discussion with law enforcement. Period.
While there are medical cannabis laws in many states across the country, it’s still federally illegal to transport cannabis between states. You might think that if you’re driving between two adjacent states that both have legal cannabis laws (like California and Oregon), you’re within legal bounds to bring cannabis with you on your journey.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. That said, some states accept medical recommendations from other states, or have legal recreational cannabis for purchase. In that case, when traveling from one state with legal cannabis to another, it’s best to leave your cannabis at home and get more when you arrive at your destination.
RELATED: TRAVELING WITH MEDICAL MARIJUANA
No matter what the cannabis laws are in your state, it’s important to exercise caution when driving or traveling with cannabis. By following your local laws and keeping your marijuana products safely stored and out of use, you can avoid any uncomfortable encounters with law enforcement, while still getting yourself and your medicine where you need to go.
In our next edition of the Cannabis for Newbies series, we’ll cover cannabis dosing. How do you know your ideal dosing or when you’ve had enough? Stay tuned to find out.
Photo credit: emdot
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