Will ‘driving while stoned’ jam New Jersey courts?

New Jersey joined the conversation of legalizing cannabis with a new proposal from local representatives. Before the bill even hit the house floor, critics vocalized concerns about marijuana legalization, including how the court will handle driving while “stoned.”

Writers of the bill stated the proposal includes heightened police training and drug enforcement to prevent drivers from traveling while impaired. According to John S. Sitzler, a Hainesport lawyer who has specialized in DUI cases, it may cause alarms for future cases.

“I’m concerned that a lot of innocent people will get ensnared and they will be convicting people who are not impaired,” Sitzler told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

THC: the newest danger to New Jersey courts

Sitzler recently represented a client after a truck accident in Southampton Township. The driver lost control of their 1996 Chevy pickup and caused the death of a jogger and their passenger. When officers arrived at the scene, they found small traces of THC, a psychoactive compound in cannabis, in the driver’s blood.

While the driver tested positive for THC, they testified it was from use during the previous week. It was a plausible conclusion due to the small doses of THC in the sample and THC’s ability to last in the bloodstream for days, possibly weeks, from a single use.

The driver clearly stated they were sober of the night of the accident, with eyewitnesses providing testimony about the driver’s actions before the crash. Sitzler said the real cause was a tie rod in the front of the truck that broke, disabling the steering function.

Sitzler believes cases like this will become a typical scenario with marijuana legalization. He suspects drivers will jam the courts with arguments against THC presence in blood samples and testing for sobriety for drugged driving.

Until marijuana legalization happens in New Jersey, drivers need to stay sober while driving, whether it’s from alcohol or cannabis. Driving while the influence of drugs or alcohol may lead to a DUI conviction, which includes jail time and fines up to $1,000.

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