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Understand the facts about drug driving laws, the impact of cannabis on driving, legal limits, detection times, and potential consequences, and what to do if charged for “drug driving”.
Picture this scenario: you’re a working professional who enjoys unwinding in the evening with a joint. No big deal, right? Well, when it comes to your driving licence, the law has a different story to tell. If you regularly smoke cannabis, you might be risking your driving privileges. In this article, we’ll dive into the frequently asked questions about drug driving laws and cannabis consumption. It’s essential to know the facts if you’re a cannabis smoker.
You might think that since cannabis isn’t classified as a “Class A” drug, it’s not that bad for your driving licence. However, the reality is quite different. The current legal limit for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, is incredibly low. It’s set at 2 micrograms per litre of blood, which to put it into perspective, a recent study showed that a single ‘puff’ on a cannabis joint produced an average immediate blood THC Concentration of 18 micrograms (9 times the legal limit). It, therefore, shows you just how incredibly low the prescribed limit for Cannabis is. So, it’s crucial to understand the severity of the prescribed limit for cannabis.
Determining how long cannabis remains in your body is complex due to various factors. These variables impact the rate at which marijuana is metabolized and excreted, making it difficult to determine when it would be safe to drive legally. Factors such as body fat, method and frequency of usage, the strength of cannabis and ingestion method, genetics, general health, and the type of detection test used can all affect detection times. For example, people with higher body fat tend to retain THC for longer, while infrequent users clear THC faster than chronic users.
Even though scientific evidence suggests that THC blood concentration doesn’t necessarily correlate with impairment, the law is clear. Exceeding the prescribed legal limit is an offence, regardless of whether you felt impaired while driving or not. It doesn’t matter if you feel perfectly fine and the standard of your driving shows no signs of impairment. If scientific evidence shows that you exceeded the limit, and there are no special reasons for committing the offence, you’ll be found guilty.
There are defences available in such cases. The most common defence is that of “necessity”, meaning that the accused has to prove they had no other choice than to drive in the circumstances. This test however has a very high bar, and in reality, viable defences of this nature are rare.
However, what is more common is if the court finds “special reasons” for driving whilst above the prescribed limit for cannabis, then this may allow the court to step back from disqualification.
To be clear however, it is not “special reasons” to say that you would lose your job if you lose your licence – special reasons must relate to the commission of the offence, and not the consequences of a conviction. Special reasons must be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require careful legal analysis and presentation.
There’s no failproof way to know if you’re below the prescribed limit without scientific testing. Roadside saliva tests are designed to provide a pass or fail result and can detect cannabis use up to 24 hours after consumption, even after the effects have subsided. Blood tests show that THC reaches peak concentration within minutes after smoking, and the concentration drops rapidly over 4 to 6 hours. It takes approximately 7 to 12 hours to reach the legal limit of 2 micrograms. Regular smokers may have even longer detection times, depending on consumption quantity and strength. In some cases, THC has been detected in the blood up to 30 days after consumption. To be on the safe side, it’s best to wait for all traces of THC to leave your body, which may take up to a month.
If charged with drug driving, particularly under the influence of cannabis, the minimum mandatory disqualification from driving is 12 months. Penalties can range from six months imprisonment to a £5000 fine. Similar to drink driving, drug driving is taken very seriously and results in a criminal record that must be disclosed on any PVG or enhanced disclosure application. If you find yourself facing charges, it’s crucial to seek expert advice before taking any action. The safest option is to refrain from smoking and allow all traces of THC to leave your body.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being caught drug driving in Scotland, it’s crucial to Seek Legal Representation as soon as possible with a qualified legal professional who specialises in drug driving cases. They will provide you with expert guidance and help you understand your rights and options. A skilled lawyer can make a significant difference to get you the best possible outcome.
Scullion LAW’s specialist team are ready to help you. Our expert Road Traffic Law experts can help to develop a robust defence strategy tailored to your circumstances. They will examine the evidence, challenge any flaws in the prosecution’s case, and explore potential legal defences. Our expertise will be invaluable in identifying the most effective defence strategy for your situation. With the right advice and representation, you have more options than you may think.
If you have any questions or need specialised road traffic advice, don’t hesitate to contact us here.