Pa. senators consider DUI protections for medical marijuana patients

Regional News

REGIONAL, Pa. (WTAJ) – Pennsylvania senators are considering DUI protections for medical marijuana patients, through proposed Senate Bill 167. The bill was recently discussed in front of the senate transportation committee on Tuesday.

Currently, if any marijuana is detected in an individual’s system, they face DUI charges, and are at risk of losing their license, even if they are registered, medical marijuana patients. SB 167 would change that law, to require active proof of impairment.

Since its legalization in 2016, more than 600,000 Pennsylvanians have qualified to become registered medical marijuana patients. But, in those five years since, Pennsylvania law has continued to require no proof of active impairment for a DUI conviction, only for a blood test to come back positive for THC.

“This inconsistency in the statute needs to be changed,” 46th district senator Camera Bartolotta said, lead sponsor of SB 167. “That is why I introduced Senate Bill 167, which would amend state law to require proof of actual impairment, similar to a schedule ii prescription as the basis for a DUI conviction.”

Examples of proof include, if an officer were to detect signs of impairment like an odor coming from the car or if an individual’s eyes are bloodshot. Afterward, If a sobriety test is failed, and blood tests show THC in your system, medical marijuana patients would still face charges.

“That would still be subject to prosecution under senate bill 167, and that motorist would still face penalties under Pennsylvania’s control substances law,” Patrick K. Nightingale said, a criminal defense attorney. “Senate Bill 167 would not permit a medical cannabis patient who is using their medical cannabis lawfully to operate a motor vehicle when impaired.

Currently, Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance law does not differ between the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. But under SB 167, wording to the law will be added to read:

“If the individual is a medical patient in compliance with the provisions of the medical marijuana act, proof of actual impairment shall be required.”

There are still many questions that needed to be answered, and levels for the proposed bill to pass through before becoming law. Currently, the Senate Transportation Committee is reviewing the testimony from Tuesday’s hearing. 35th district senator and chair of the transportation committee Wayne Langerholc Jr. gave some insight into some of the questions being discussed.

“Is there a window of time here that they’re going to be impaired? We need to ensure that this is not permitting any patient or any individual that is impaired to be operating a motor vehicle,” Langerholc said.

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