Illinois Medical Marijuana Law in Direct Conflict with Vehicle Code
By: James Bizzieri
Beginning in 2014, the Illinois medical marijuana law came into effect. Though the first batch of medical marijuana is not yet available to patients, people are already concerned about how this new law will interact with other statutes. In particular many are concerned about how the legal consumption of marijuana will affect a patient’s ability to follow the Illinois Vehicle Code, which provides a prohibition against driving while impaired under the influence of drugs. Our auto accident attorneys are currently observing the evolution of this issue in order to determine the legal ramifications of this conflict between the new Illinois medical marijuana law and the Illinois Vehicle Code.
The Contradictions between Laws
The Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, which is still being developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health, will provide the legal framework for the lawful consumption of marijuana in Illinois. Currently, Illinois has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to driving while impaired. No matter the drug, or amount in your system, you will be found guilty of a DUI if you are pulled over by the police and prosecuted for driving while under the influence of a narcotics such as marijuana. The Department of Public Health, which has the duty of overseeing the Program's patient registration process, has released draft rules that provide potential guidance for handling those who are driving impaired while under the influence of marijuana. These proposed rules look to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration field sobriety tests to provide a legal standard for determining whether a motorist is illegally driving while impaired.
Though the adequacy of field sobriety tests has long been recognized by the Illinois Vehicle Code, many believe that these tests will not be enough. This is because field sobriety tests are primarily designed to discover whether a person is under the influence of alcohol and no other substances like marijuana. Further confusion exists because the Illinois Vehicle Code does not provide a legal threshold for marijuana intoxication, though a threshold of 0.08 blood-alcohol content is the standard for drunk driving.
The Proposed Rules
The Department of Public Health’s proposed rules attempt to remove some of the confusion regarding the medical marijuana law and the Illinois Vehicle Code. These proposed draft rules requires that those who receive a medical marijuana registry card must agree to refrain from driving while impaired from marijuana use. The proposed Code also requires card recipients to consent to field sobriety if prompted by an Illinois police officer. The penalty for refusing to undergo a field sobriety test is a one year driver’s licenses suspension, as well as the revocation of the medical marijuana registry card. However, the driver’s license suspension will be reduced to only 6-months for those who comply with the requirement that they take a sobriety field test.
Though the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program is not yet up and running, it has already sparked debate regarding the legal prohibition against driving under the influence of marijuana. If you have any legal questions regarding Illinois Vehicle Code you should contact a car accident attorney here or call our Chicago office of Bizzieri Law at 773-881-9000.