In January of 2014, the new medical marijuana law1 in the state of Illinois became effective. The medical marijuana pilot program allows qualified patients to receive authorization to legally use marijuana as prescribed by a medical professional. This new authorization for legal marijuana for certain residents naturally led to the question: is it legal for licensed users to use marijuana and then operate a motor vehicle? 

Illinois recently addressed this question by updating its DUI laws regarding medical marijuana users. Under the updated law, it is not against the law for registered medical marijuana users to drive with marijuana in their systems as long as they are not actually “impaired” at the time of driving. This change is extremely important for several reasons. 

First, the prior law made it unlawful for any individual to operate a motor vehicle with even the slightest trace of marijuana in their system (commonly known as the “trace law”).2 Since traces of marijuana can be detected in a person’s blood or urine for hours, days, or even weeks after the last use, it is entirely possible that someone can have marijuana detected by a chemical test when they were not actually impaired by the drug at that time. This put medical marijuana users in a tough position, as they were allowed to legally and regularly use marijuana, meaning it would likely show up in a chemical test. 

The new part of the law only affects registered medical marijuana users, however, as everyone else is still subject to the trace law. Additionally, medical marijuana users give up an important right in exchange for the trace law immunity. If a police officer claims to have reasonable suspicion that the user is impaired, they must submit to field sobriety testing or risk losing their license. Others in Illinois are not currently required to undergo such tests. 

A Chicago criminal defense attorney can help you

Criminal defense attorney Nenye Uche has extensive experience handling medical marijuana DUI cases in the Chicago area and understands how the ever-changing laws may apply to your case. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Uche understands the ins and outs of the Illinois criminal justice system, especially as it relates to those facing charges of DUI. Call our office today at (888) 251-4428 for a free consultation. 


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