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Cannabis DUIs in Illinois -- What You Need to Know

Posted by Dominick R. Dolci | May 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

Oftentimes, when discussing DUIs, alcohol is the first substance which comes to mind. However, a Driving Under the Influence charge doesn't merely apply to alcohol, but a number of intoxicating substances which may impair driving ability. In the state of Illinois, another common cause of DUIs is driving under the influence of cannabis, or marijuana. 

Unlike DUI by alcohol, rules regarding Illinois cannabis DUIs are oftentimes more complicated and less known to the public. However, with the decriminalization of small amount of cannabis possession and the legalization of the prescription of medical cannabis in specific medical cases, it's important to have a basic understanding of Illinois cannabis DUI laws so you can protect yourself and your interests.  

To learn more about Illinois cannabis DUIs, just keep reading. Below are several key facts about Illinois cannabis DUIs we believe you should be aware of. 

Medical Marijuana Prescriptions Do Not Protect Individuals from DUIs

The passage of the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act in 2014 allows Illinois residents diagnosed with certain medical conditions as defined by Illinois law to be eligible for medical cannabis prescriptions as a valid form or medical treatment. 

To legally obtain a medical cannabis registry card, a resident must obtain a written certification from a physician which documents the existence of a qualifying medical condition, as well as register with the Illinois Department of Public Health. Individuals who have been legally issued a card are allowed the purchase of up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every two weeks. 

Despite the introduction of medical cannabis policies, it is considered illegal to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol, including cannabis. Although someone may be permitted to use medical marijuana, they are still able to be charged with driving under the influence if they do operate a vehicle while impaired by THC.

There are Laws Controlling the Transport of Medical Cannabis 

Illinois laws dictate that medical marijuana must be transported in a vehicle under certain guidelines. When transporting medical cannabis in a vehicle, the cannabis must: 

  1. Be stored in a tamper-evident container
  2. Be stored in an area of the vehicle which is not accessible while operating the vehicle

In a Cannabis DUIs, Law Enforcement Tests for THC Levels, Not BAC

You may be familiar with the importance of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) in an alcohol DUI. A BAC of 0.08 or higher is considered legally impaired. However, in cannabis DUIs, the intoxication occurs due to a different intoxicating compound, called THC. When testing for driving under the influence of cannabis, what law enforcement looks for is the amount of THC present in the blood.

Under the current cannabis DUI laws in Illinois, legal impairment is defined as a THC level of 5 or more nanograms of THC per millimeter of blood. Additionally, the presence of 10 or more nanograms of THC per millimeter of saliva or urine can also indicate legal impairment. 

Cannabis DUI Cases are Not Always Cut-and-Dry

Scientific studies show that the metabolization of cannabis and THC is not straightforward, and the correlation between impairment and THC levels in blood, saliva, or urine is not always clear. Each individual who uses cannabis may react differently, depending on a number of factors such as weight, height, metabolism, and body composition.

Furthermore, how medical cannabis users vs regular cannabis users metabolize THC can be significantly different. There have been instances where medical cannabis users have a higher level of THC in their body due to regular consumption, yet still maintain the mental and physical abilities necessary for passing a field sobriety test. For that reason, cannabis DUI cases are rarely cut-and-dry, and those charged with a cannabis DUI can benefit from a proactive and strategic legal defense which uses these inconsistencies as an advantage. 

(For more legal information on cannabis laws and DUIs in Illinois, check out our page on Medical Cannabis DUIs

Charged with a Cannabis DUI in Illinois? Contact Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

If you or a loved one have been arrested or charged with a cannabis DUI in Illinois, time is of the essence. In any DUI case, early action and being proactive can be of enormous benefit. Due to the complexity of Illinois DUI laws, a number of legal strategies may help defend you from a conviction. To learn more about your legal options and speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney, please contact our law office at (630) 261-9098 to schedule a free legal consultation.

About the Author

Dominick R. Dolci

Managing Partner Dominick R. Dolci focuses his practice on criminal defense litigation and civil litigation. Dom graduated from John Marshall law school in 1990. He began his legal training in the Cook County States Attorneys Office where he worked at 26th and California. He then transferred ...


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