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Los Angeles DUI Marijuana


Los Angeles DUI Marijuana

Driving under the influence of marijuana in Los Angeles can lead to serious legal consequences. With recreational marijuana now legal in California, there has been an increase in marijuana DUIs across the state. However, driving while impaired by any substance, including marijuana, is still illegal. Let’s take a closer look at marijuana DUIs in LA and what you need to know.

Marijuana DUI Laws in California

In California, it is illegal to drive with a blood concentration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, of 5 nanograms/mL or higher[1]. This “per se” limit makes it easier for prosecutors to prove impairment in a marijuana DUI case. However, you can still be charged with a DUI even if your THC level is below 5 ng/mL if officers determine you were impaired based on field sobriety tests.

Penalties for a first-offense marijuana DUI in California include[2]:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Fines up to $1000
  • Driver’s license suspension for 6 months
  • Possible ignition interlock device requirement

Penalties get more severe for repeat offenses within 10 years. A second offense can include up to 1 year in jail. A third offense within 10 years becomes a felony with 16 months to 4 years in state prison.

Challenges to Marijuana DUI Charges

There are several ways a skilled DUI defense attorney can challenge marijuana DUI charges in Los Angeles:

  • Invalid traffic stop – If officers did not have probable cause to pull you over, evidence obtained after can be suppressed.
  • Faulty chemical test – Blood tests can be inaccurate if not done properly. Breathalyzers don’t detect THC.
  • No actual impairment – THC can stay in your system for weeks after use. High THC levels don’t always mean impairment.
  • Medical marijuana – Having a valid medical marijuana card provides some protection but does not give full immunity.

An attorney can also negotiate plea bargains, alternative sentencing, or diversion programs to minimize penalties.

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Avoiding Marijuana DUIs in Los Angeles

The best way to avoid a marijuana DUI is to not drive at all for several hours after using cannabis. Unlike alcohol, THC can remain in your bloodstream at impairing levels long after the euphoric effects wear off.

If you do choose to drive, be extra cautious. Follow all traffic laws, drive well under speed limits, and avoid sudden movements. Have any passengers help look out for hazards or signs of impairment. Pull over immediately if you feel too impaired to drive safely.

Consider alternative transportation like ride share services, public transit, or taxis. Some ride share companies like Lyft offer discounted rides on major drinking holidays to deter impaired driving.

Marijuana DUIs and Racial Disparities

While marijuana use rates are similar across racial groups, Black and Latino drivers face disproportionately higher rates of marijuana DUIs than White drivers in many jurisdictions[3]. A 2020 Los Angeles Times investigation found that in Los Angeles, Black people were arrested for marijuana DUIs at more than triple the rate of other racial groups.

Racial profiling and bias in traffic stops play a significant role. Black and Brown drivers also face harsher sentencing compared to White defendants charged with similar marijuana DUI offenses. Addressing these disparities is an urgent priority as more states legalize recreational cannabis.

Recent Changes to Marijuana DUI Laws

California marijuana DUI laws are evolving along with broader cannabis legalization. Recent changes include:

    • Lowering the per se THC limit from 8 ng/mL to 5 ng/mL in 2022.
    • No longer allowing plea bargains from marijuana DUIs to non-DUI offenses like reckless driving.
    • Extending DUI penalties to driving under the influence of cannabis concentrates and edibles


Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, which creates challenges for states legalizing recreational or medical use. However, the trend is clearly towards liberalization of cannabis laws across the U.S.

Finding an Experienced Marijuana DUI Attorney

Being charged with a marijuana DUI can have devastating effects on your freedom, finances, and future. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can protect your rights and help achieve the most favorable outcome possible. When choosing an attorney, look for:

  • Extensive DUI defense experience, including marijuana DUIs
  • Strong record of positive case results
  • Familiarity with local courts, judges, and processes
  • Willingness to fight evidence and challenge chemical test results
  • Compassion and concern for their clients

Don’t take chances with your future. Consult with a dedicated Los Angeles DUI lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I face DUI charges if marijuana is legal in California?

Yes, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana even though recreational use is legal for adults 21 and over in California. The state has per se THC limits that make it easier to prosecute marijuana DUIs.

What if I’m a medical marijuana patient?

Having a valid medical marijuana card provides some protections but does not give full immunity from DUI charges. Prosecutors can still argue you were impaired based on evidence like field sobriety tests.

What should I do if pulled over after using marijuana?

Politely decline field sobriety tests, which are voluntary. Invoke your right to remain silent and request an attorney immediately. Cooperate otherwise to avoid resisting arrest charges.

Can I refuse a blood test?

You have the right to refuse a blood test, but your driver’s license will be suspended for at least 1 year if you refuse. A warrant can also be obtained to collect blood evidence without consent.

How long does marijuana stay in your system?

THC can be detected in blood for several hours after use. In chronic heavy users, THC can be detected for days or even weeks after last use. However, detectable THC does not always mean impairment.



  1. California DUI Marijuana Laws
  2. California Vehicle Code 23152
  3. Racial Disparities in Marijuana DUI Enforcement
  4. LA Times – Racial Disparities in CA Marijuana DUIs
  5. CA SB-389 Marijuana DUI Law
  6. CA AB-2799 Marijuana DUI Plea Bargains
  7. CA SB-14 Marijuana Concentrates and Edibles DUI Law


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