Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Texas

Recently the defensive driving tx team sat in on a class in an University in Boston, Massachusetts.  It just so happened that the professor mercilessly lambast Texas as a backwards state whose conservatism deserves ridicule. The topic turned to Driving under the Influence of marijuana.  Unfortunately, this idea that conservatism equates to “backward thinking” or represents unintelligence or social injustice is rampant in many parts of the country and in the world. One set of “conservative” Texas laws that comes under particularly harsh scrutiny is the set of laws regarding marijuana possession and driving under the influence of marijuana.

Marijuana Distribution in Texas

The popularity and distribution of Marijuana in the United States has greatly increased.  Democratic western states have legalized recreational marijuana. With state legalization now real, it is quite easy to get Marijuana out of legalized states and into territories that would be considered “illegal.”  That creates an interesting dynamic, especially as it relates to marijuana and driving.

Does Marijuana Impair Driving

Marijuana driving laws are created and enforced as a measure of public safety. The truth is that marijuana use does impair a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle and law enforcement has seen extensive examples of impairment on the roadways that can be attributed to smoking weed.  The impairment caused by marijuana can lead to injuries or death to surrounding drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

There is some debate on driving under the influence of marijuana and how much the driver is impacted.  Does marijuana impair driving significantly?” Unlike alcohol, the presence of which the law and scientists agree can be measured for impairment, it is not always easy for the untrained person to recognize how much of a reckless driver’s actions are actually due to the influence of marijuana.

Running stop signs, stopping too soon at red lights, stopping short of the white line at red lights, or failing to continue when a red light turns green are common symptoms for drivers impacted by marijuana influence.  Problems with perception of distances and timing can also attributed to the influence of marijuana. Drivers under the influence of marijuana have also been reported as failing to gauge and adhere to given speed limits and having delayed reaction time.

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Marijuana users have been reported as having decreased equilibrium (the ability to remain balanced while moving) and increased dizziness. Other studies report that cannabis users drove significantly slower than control group participants (with no drug influence), and that cannabis users tended to weave out of their lane. Finally, aside from affecting driver reaction time, perception, and spatial awareness, driving under the influence of marijuana has also been shown to cause drivers to tailgate, to miscalculate distances between vehicles, and to fail to apply the brakes in time to avoid clearly visible road obstacles, not to mention the fact the marijuana users tend to more easily lose control of their vehicles.

Here at Defensive Driving Texas, we are the first to admit that scientists disagree about exactly how much Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, can impair driving ability.  The smartest minds disagree as to the extent of the impairment and a drivers defensive driving abilities and that can make marijuana laws in Texas difficult as a debate.

Texas Marijuana Laws

How much impairment are we willing to tolerate? If strapping a live salmon to your head impaired driving ability and occasionally—even often—caused traffic accidents there would be no outcry regarding legally prohibiting the strapping of salmon to foreheads.

Why, then, are we opposed to prohibiting driving under the influence of marijuana in Texas if there has been a proven link to any impairment whatsoever? Driving is the most dangerous thing we do in our lives each and every day.  Shouldn’t we take every step to drive defensively and stay alive?

Many do not appreciate any authority that threatens their right to pursue their own personal pleasure. Defenders of marijuana use and those who seek to rewrite Texas laws regarding driving under the influence of drugs would cite their right to freedom of choice and their right to the pursuit of happiness.

It’s important to remember that Texas laws are simply in place to preserve the safety of its citizens. When your right to choose pleasure impacts public safety, it becomes a state concern.

Marijuana Laws in Texas and Penalties for Driving Under the Influence

Marijuana laws in Texas are commonly searched for these days as the drug becomes more popular.  Texas law (§ 49.04) focuses on safety and defensive driving in TX.  Here are the penalties regarding driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated (which pertains to marijuana as well as alcohol).  The penalties are indeed severe:

  • First conviction (Class B Misdemeanor)
    • up to $2,000 fine
    • jail time (from 72 hours up to 180 days)
    • community service (from 24 hours up to 100 hours)
    • license suspension (up to one year)
    • surcharge of $1,000 or $2,000 per year for three years
  • Second conviction (Class A Misdemeanor)
    • up to $4,000 fine
    • jail time (from 72 hours to 365 days)
    • community service (from 80 hours to 200 hours)
    • license suspension (from 180 days to two years)
    • surcharge of $1,500 or $2,000 per year for three years
  • Third + conviction(s) (Third Degree Felony)
    • up to $10,000 fine
    • jail time (from 2 to 10 years)
    • community service (from 160 hours to 600 hours)
    • license suspension (from 180 days to two years)
    • surcharge of $1,500 or $2,000 per year for three years

Penalties are even more strict for minors.

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Marijuana Penalties in Texas

Are these penalties, perhaps, too severe? That is a judgment call that Defensive Driving TX is unqualified to make.  With all drugs, there are reports of tragic and traumatic consequences of irresponsible “recreational” drug use.

Regardless of what we think at Defensive Driving Texas, obeying the law is something we take seriously as a family.  It’s a big reason why we have this defensive driving course. We take safety and Defensive Driving Texas Online courses seriously.  

Sadly, marijuana use in conjunction with driving has gone up several percentage points in the last few years. Some argue that that marijuana driving laws are unfair, but they currently exist for protection and are deserving of respect.  Defensive Driving Texas respectfully submits that those who seek fun can find ample sources of legal pleasures that in no way impair judgment while driving.  There are so many other safe things you can do while still having fun.

Many cities in Texas are covered by services by Uber, Lyft, and Fasten.  Use them! Ridesharing services are argued about frequently, but there is no denying the value they add as an on demand designated driving service.  Taxis, while ever hated, are also there to get you home safe.

There’s no excuse!  Currently, having ANY amount of illegal drugs such as marijuana in your body is enough to convict you of driving under the influence (§ 49.01).  This includes the use of medical marijuana by prescription.

Why risk it? If you’re a recreational marijuana user in the state of Texas, and especially if you use and drive, you are engaging in illegal and potentially dangerous behavior.  Know that drug tests such as breathalyzers to determine THC blood content are being developed. Some THC drug tests, such as the Dräger DrugTest 5000, are currently in use or in pilot programs by police departments across the US.

Marijuana and Driving Conclusions

Drug recognition expert officers are committed to cracking down on substance abuse, especially while driving.  Scientists are continuing to develop more sophisticated tests to isolate exactly how much THC contributes to what levels of impairment. Soon, we’ll have a better idea of exactly how dangerous driving under the influence can be.  We may soon see a standardized legal THC-blood-content level similar to the .08 limit for alcohol.

Until scientific research recants its findings thus far or the laws change, the fact is that driving under the influence of marijuana is risky at best, dangerous in fact, and deadly at worst. Please, obey the law and have fun responsibly.

Not sure how to get high on life? There are a million articles about how to naturally release endorphins (the pleasure-inducers of the body) on the web. Some ways include exercising, extreme sports, eating spicy foods, making love to your spouse, serving others (no joke), and laughing uproariously with friends. Want to know one last way to enjoy a true life pleasure with no legal ramifications? Get sober and go for a drive! Be present at every turn, enjoying the twists and turns of the road and the company in the car and all your surroundings. Enjoy the journey and make sure to practice defensive driving!

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