The possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use became legal in Minnesota at the beginning of August, drastically changing the landscape in the state in terms of drug enforcement.
However, while the laws around having and consuming cannabis have relaxed, driving while intoxicated from the substance remains illegal. In this post, we look at how the new rules are affecting road users.
New Marijuana Laws in Minnesota
As of August 1, 2023, it is legal to possess cannabis at home and in public, and to grow plants at home without a license. There are still certain limits in place as of the time of writing; these will remain until the state authorities have put the infrastructure for a full legal cannabis industry in place. Officials estimate that it will be possible to purchase cannabis products from dispensaries across Minnesota within the next 18 months.
The Rules Around Driving and Marijuana in Minnesota
Minnesota generally prohibits drivers from being under the influence of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug while operating a vehicle on public highways. However, while marijuana is a Schedule I drug at the federal government level, this rule doesn’t apply to it, as Minnesota authorities created a specific exception in its case.
However, it’s still illegal to drive on Minnesota roads if you’re intoxicated by marijuana to the extent that you cannot drive safely. If a police officer suspects you of breaking this rule, you may face a DWI charge.
The extent of the penalties you may face will depend on the same factors as apply to alcohol-related DWIs. DWI charges vary from fourth-degree (a misdemeanor charge) to first-degree DWIs (a felony charge). First-time offenders with no aggravating factors (such as causing injuries or driving intoxicated with children in the car) usually get charged with fourth-degree DWIs.
Another key point to note is that a version of the open container law for alcohol applies to marijuana. While you can have cannabis products in your car, they must be fully sealed in their original packaging if you’re on a public roadway.
Is There Roadside Testing for Marijuana?
If a Minnesota police officer pulls you over on suspicion of driving drunk, they will either administer field sobriety tests or breathalyze you to get a better idea of whether you are actually over the limit for alcohol. There is not currently an equivalent test to detect the presence of marijuana in use by police.
However, there are methods the authorities can use to assess whether you’re intoxicated. One is analysis by a drug recognition evaluator; these are specialist officers who have been trained to spot the signs of inebriation associated with different drugs. The training required to become a drug recognition evaluator involves intensive instruction, both in the classroom and in the field, focusing on improving an officer’s ability to detect intoxication at the roadside.
While it’s possible to test for the presence of THC in someone’s body, the results cannot generally prove you were intoxicated at the time of the test, as traces of the compound can remain in your system for days, or even weeks, following ingestion. While some testing systems use the amount of THC in someone’s system as an indication of when they consumed cannabis, it’s not clear that this is a reliable way to tell whether or not a test subject is intoxicated.
Minnesota’s new marijuana legislation has allocated funding for research into the development of a roadside test that would seek out the compound in saliva. However, it’s not clear how soon that might be in active use.
Contact Kans Law Today
If you’ve run into an issue related to marijuana and driving, DWI, or another type of criminal charge, our firm can help. Contact us today for a free initial consultation about your case.