On January 1, 2014, Medical Marijuana became legal in Illinois. The Illinois Medical Marijuana policy is stricter than most other states that have enacted Medical Marijuana. Illinois does not allow Medical Marijuana to be grown at home. The Marijuana must be cultivated at a state-regulated facility that is under strict rules and regulations. To be allowed to use Medical Marijuana, you must apply for permission from the Illinois Department of Health. The application process is strict and it may take several months for you to be approved. If you are approved to use Medical Marijuana, you will be given an identification card. You will only be allowed to purchase 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every 14 days. The program is tightly restricted and supervised.
While I was investigating how the Medical Marijuana laws have affected the DUI laws in Illinois, I discovered that if you get a Medical Marijuana card, this will be reported to the Illinois Secretary of State and your status as a Medical Marijuana patient will appear whenever a police officer runs your license. But as I looked into this further, I discovered some troubling news that all Medical Marijuana patients should be aware of. If a police officer is following your vehicle and they run your license plate, it is entirely possible that their computer will show that you are a Medical Marijuana patient. Most Illinois drivers will have their driver’s license number linked with the license plate number of the car that they own and is registered to them. If your driver’s license number is linked to the license plate number of your vehicle and when a police officer runs your license plate number, their computer will show that you are a Medical Marijuana patient. To verify this, I contacted a friend who works at the Illinois Secretary of State and asked him to confirm my findings. Initially, he told me that I was wrong and that this information is not reported to the Secretary of State, so this information would not appear if your license is searched or your plates are checked. I asked him to look into this further to make sure his information was correct because I had received conflicting information. After a short time he contacted me to inform me that my findings were correct and that the Medical Marijuana is reported to the Secretary of State. While not all driver’s licenses are linked to their license plate numbers, most licenses are.
You can imagine how this could be troubling for Medical Marijuana patients. While a valid argument could be made to allow the Secretary of State to place Medical Marijuana patient status on your driving record so that this information would appear if your license was ever run by a police officer, it makes no sense to make it possible for a police officer to discover this information when they are randomly running license plates of vehicles. While most police officers are honorable and honest, allowing this information to be available whenever a license plate number is run through a computer in a squad car opens the door to potential abuse and misuse. One can imagine a situation in which a police officer, who is randomly running license plate numbers of vehicles on the roadway, sees that a particular vehicle is registered to a Medical Marijuana patient and pulls over the driver of the vehicle just because he knows that there’s a pretty good chance that the driver of the vehicle has used marijuana in the recent past. This has the effect of placing a bulls eye on a Medical Marijuana patient who may doing nothing wrong other than being a Medical Marijuana patient.
When Medical Marijuana was enacted in Illinois, the DUI laws were changed to address Medical Marijuana. If you are pulled over by a police officer and are asked to step out of the car and perform field sobriety tests and you refuse, you will be facing no penalty. However, if you have been issued a Medical Marijuana card and a police officer asks you to step out of the car and submit to a field sobriety test and you refuse, your license will be suspended for 12 months. When you are issued a Medical Marijuana card, you give consent to perform standardized field sobriety tests whenever you are requested to do so by a police officer. A police officer must have an independent cannabis-related factual basis that gives him a reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence of cannabis before requesting that you submit to a standardized field sobriety test. This requirement can cause problems. What happens if you refuse to perform a field sobriety test because you are not feeling particularly well that day or are unable to because of your disability? After all, you are disabled enough to qualify for a Medical Marijuana Card.
What happens if you are taken to a hospital and take a blood test that reveals that you have 5 nanograms or more of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in your blood and prosecutors want to use this to try to prove that you were Driving Under the Influence? 5 nanograms of THC in your blood is the amount of THC that would make a non-Medical Marijuana patient charged with a DUI guilty of a DUI. However, a blood test does not accurately measure the effect that marijuana has on the human body. Marijuana does not react the same way that alcohol does when it enters the bloodstream. When marijuana is ingested, it will initially enter the bloodstream but will rapidly exit the blood and enter the fatty sections of your body. Your brain has several sections containing fat and the marijuana will travel to the fatty sections in your brain. If someone ingests marijuana, a blood test taken shortly after the marijuana is ingested may show a high level of THC in the blood. But if the blood test is taken two or three hours after the marijuana is ingested, the blood test may show a low level of THC in the blood even though the person may still feel “high” because the marijuana has moved to the brain. Heavy and regular users of marijuana, like many Medical Marijuana patients, will have high THC levels in their bloodstream all the time.
If you are a Medical Marijuana patient and are charged with a DUI, you can fight the case in Court. You can contest the reason for your vehicle being stopped by the police, or the justification for requesting that you submit to a field sobriety test, or the results of the field sobriety test, or the results of any blood tests. But this could be a very expensive and difficult ordeal to go through. Many Medical Marijuana patients are disabled and are unable to afford the legal fees required to put up a fight like this. That’s one reason why it’s unfair to place a bulls eye on Medical Marijuana patients. This is something that should be addressed by lawmakers. It is unfair to Medical Marijuana patients to increase the likelihood that they will be pulled over for no reason. There has to be a better way of doing this.
James Dimeas is a nationally-recognized, award-winning, DUI lawyer. James Dimeas has been handling DUI cases for over 25 years throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Lake County, and Kane County. James Dimeas has been recognized as a “Best DUI Attorney.” Expertise named James Dimeas as a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago.” The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys have named James Dimeas a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” The National Trial Lawyers have named James Dimeas a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer.” James Dimeas has been rated “Superb” by AVVO, the highest rating possible for any lawyer in the United States.