In 2020, Nevada dispensaries sold nearly $700 million dollars worth of cannabis and derivative products. Before AB400 was signed into law last week, many who used those products also drove a motor vehicle within 48 hours of use and likely exceeded the per se blood level limit for Tetracanabidiol (THC), the psychoactive component in cannabis, when they did it.
The legal standard for judging driver impairment for alcohol is consistent and accurate, an enduring legal measuring stick used in every U.S. state. With a higher blood alcohol content comes an increased level of impairment, a near linear relationship, but intoxication is not as predictable based on a blood level limit for THC.
People react differently to cannabis use. Numerous studies show that an infrequent user may experience pronounced effects when consuming small amounts of THC, but a daily medical cannabis user, for instance, may exhibit no reduction in psychomotor ability after use, yet they would likely be convicted of DUI if their blood were tested while driving. As of August 2020, there were 13,269 medical cannabis patients in Nevada. Assemblyman Steve Yeager, primary sponsor of AB400, presented the legislation to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary on March 29 of this year.
“What this means in practice is that you have little or no ability to defend yourself against DUI charges, if your blood test comes back with results above those numbers, your only real defense is that you were not the one driving or that the blood tested was not, in fact, your blood,” Yeager said. “You are not able to make any argument that you were not impaired due to a built up tolerance or history of heavy usage, even if for medical purposes. Simply stated, if you are above those levels, you are going to be guilty