What New York medical cannabis patients should know about DUI

In 2014, New York legalized medical cannabis to treat conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and seizures. If you are a qualifying patient with a prescription from a registered physician, you may have access to marijuana from licensed state dispensaries in the form of lozenges, ointments, oils, dry flower and other therapeutic compounds.

Although medical cannabis patients can legally purchase and possess marijuana, the law prohibits them from driving under the influence of this medication under the DUI laws that apply to alcohol and other drugs.

What happens if law enforcement pulls me over?

Unlike with alcohol, no standardized test exists to determine whether someone has consumed cannabis before driving. If an officer suspects that you are under the influence, he or she may call in a state-certified drug recognition expert. These specialized law enforcement officers have training in the detection of drug-related impairment. He or she will perform several tests to determine whether you are affected by drugs or alcohol. The officer may ask you to give a blood or urine sample.

What are the penalties for New York DUI?

A first-time DUI offense in New York carries a mandatory fine of at least $500 and mandatory six-month license suspension. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you can also receive up to a year in jail.

A second offense carries fines of up to $5,000, a year of license suspension and up to four years in jail. For the third offense within the same 10-year period, fines rise to $10,000 and you could receive up to seven years in prison, along with license suspension for at least one year.

Because cannabis remains in the system even after you are no longer impaired, especially with regular use, you may have a successful court defense against your DUI charge involving medical marijuana. A criminal defense attorney can examine the circumstances of your case and potentially advocate on your behalf in the New York legal system.

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