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New Bill Would Let Medical Marijuana Patients Drive Under The Influence, But How High Is Too High?

Ryan Kang
Bottles of cannabis tinctures are seen on display at Amazon Organics, a pot dispensary in Eugene, Ore., on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015.

Under Pennsylvania law, a person operating a car, truck, boat or airplane can be arrested if they're under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana is federally considered a Schedule 1 drug, lumping it with heroin, LSD and esctacy.

State Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) says this creates confusion for law enforcement if they pull over a medical marijuana patient. Delozier will soon introduce legislation to allow medical marijuana patients to operate a vehicle while under the influence, as long as their driving is not impaired.

But first, lawmakers in conjunction with law enforcement officials will determine how high is too high to drive. 

"So where do we find this medium, like alcohol, like any other prescription drug, at what point is too much as makes it unsafe," Delozier said.

Unlike alcohol, there isn't a straightforward test, like a breathalyzer, to tell if someone is impaired by marijuana. Delozier said a possible outcome of discussions is that a judgement call would be placed in the hands of law enforcement for each case.

According to the organization Governors Highway Safety Association, 18 states of zero tolerance laws for driving under the influence of marijuana. More marijuana traffic laws by state are available here.

"We need to make sure that our law enforcement has the tools to do their job," Delozier said. "And I think that's the goal of this legislation, to work with them and balance the concerns on both sides."

Medical marijuana was signed into Pennsylvania law in 2016 to treat 17 medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, autism and cancer. More than 16,000 patients have aquired medical marijuana in the state.

Kathleen J. Davis covers news about just about anything at WESA. She’s also the primary reporter and producer of WESA’s weekly series Pittsburgh Tech Report. Kathleen originally hails from the great state of Michigan, and is always available to talk about suburban Detroit and Coney Island diners. She lives in Bloomfield.
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