Although marijuana remains illegal in Iowa and federally, many people still use it. Moreover, a lot of people are under the misimpression that driving under the influence of marijuana isn’t dangerous or illegal. Unfortunately, that’s not true.
Our operating while intoxicated (OWI) law applies to any driver who is impaired by the effects of any substance. That includes alcohol, marijuana, other illicit drugs and even prescription medications.
Drive High, Get an OWI
Over the last Labor Day holiday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rolled out a new safety campaign: “If You Feel Different, You Drive Different.” The campaign is meant to make drivers aware of the dangerous of driving while high.
“A driver’s judgment and ability to react are both impaired when driving high, but many drivers don’t realize that it’s dangerous and illegal,” said a spokesperson for NHTSA. “Driving either drunk or high is a DUI; impairment is impairment.”
April is a prime time for smoking — and law enforcement is well aware. According to KCCI, the Iowa State Patrol stepped up its marijuana and OWI enforcement over the weekend and made 32 drug arrests. It was part of a joint crackdown among six Midwestern states.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is a per se offense. That means that you can be convicted if you’re caught driving with any detectable amount of marijuana or its metabolites in your body. The only exception is very limited: If you have legally used low-THC medical CBD for a state-qualifying condition with a doctor’s recommendation, you may have that substance in your system. If you are legally taking medical CBD and are arrested for OWI, contact a criminal defense attorney right away.
A first offense of marijuana possession could mean 6 months in jail
Celebrating 4/20 may seem fun until the police arrive. At that point, it begins to negatively affect your life. In Iowa, a first-offense of marijuana possession is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A second offense carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1,875 fine. The penalties for a third offense jump significantly to up to 2 years in jail and a $6,250 fine.
Even though all of those are misdemeanor offenses, a conviction means that you have a drug offense on your criminal record. That generally means you would be sentenced more harshly if you were convicted of another crime. It can also put barriers in the way of job, education and housing opportunities.
Don’t plead guilty to a drug offense. Get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer.