The States of Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana. Tax revenues and sales of Girl Scout® cookies went up. I am not sure what effect legalization has had on funds law enforcement has collected from forfeiture actions, but one would surmise those funds are down.
Hoosiers who want to travel to Colorado or Washington or both should give serious consideration as to whether to indulge in cannabis sativa. “Weed” might be legal in Denver and Spokane, but the effects of consumption could be serious for a Hoosier who returns to this State and drives an automobile.
I.C. 9-30-5-5 makes Operating a Vehicle Causing Death a Class 5 felony if the driver has a Schedule I or II drug in her or his system. I.C. 35-48-2-4 makes THC—the active ingredient in marijuana—a Schedule I drug. The THC merely needs to be in one’s system. Whereas levels of alcohol in the blood are set out to define intoxication in regard to alcohol for application of these statutes, there is no such measure for marijuana.
In Radick v. State, 863 N.E.2d 356 (Ind.Ct.App. 2007), the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a conviction for OVWI Causing Death in which presence of marijuana metabolites was found to be sufficient to support conviction. In Brown v. State, 744 N.E.2d 989 (Ind.Ct.App. 2001), the driver who was killed was at fault in the collision that resulted in death. Immediately after such a collision, blood samples are taken from any driver involved. Marijuana was found to be present in Brown’s blood and there was a conviction.
Word “on the street” is that marijuana can show up thirty (30) days after last use. Judge Judy—there’s a great source for facts and law—says use of drugs can be determined, from fair follicles—for years after use. Testimony I have read and toxicologist whom I have heard lecture at continuing legal education seminars have said THC is in the blood 48 to 72 hours after use.
However long THC sticks around in one’s system, if THC is present in a person’s system, the person is involved in a collision, and somebody dies, even if the other driver is at fault, faces prosecution on a Class 5 felony, under the categories that took effect on July 1. A Class 5 felony is punishable by a sentence of from one (1) to five (5) years.
People who are intoxicated should not drive. I live in Broad Ripple and, if we go to a bar, we walk. If we go downtown, we take a cab.
I would like to smoke marijuana—for medicinal purposes. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1994. Studies I have read indicate marijuana is an anti-inflammatory. That is good for treatment of MS. However, as an officer of the court, I cannot smoke pot. (I went to college in the 1970s and lived on college campuses into the early 1980s, but I am serious when I say I do not smoke pot.) Even if I were not a lawyer, if I continued to live in Indiana and drove a car on a regular basis, I would not smoke pot.
As I recall from field research I conducted in the 1970s, the buzz from pot wears off in a few hours. The purposes of the statues in question is to deter drivers from getting intoxicated and driving. If a person is not stoned, but is behind the wheel of a car the next day, or perhaps even two days later, there is likely—very likely—no impairment.
When marijuana was illegal everywhere in the United States, the argument could be made people should not smoke pot—so there. I will not argue with that point here, because it is moot. We now have States—and there will be more State soon that will legalize pot—in which smoking pot is legal for recreational purposes. Already there are more States in which smoking pot for medicinal reasons is legal. Indiana’s statutes make no distinction about where a person consumes the pot. The offense is committed because marijuana is in the person’s system.
This statutory framework is archaic. We should legalize all drugs. In the meantime, people who simply have THC in their systems should not be punished under a Draconian system. In the Brown case, the other driver crossed the center line. The appellant went to prison. That outcome was an absurd result of a “war on drugs” mentality in Indiana’s General Assembly. Perhaps the legislators should have stuck to redefining the numerical value of Pi.