Driving While High Laws in Los Angeles & Marijuana DUI Explained | Lajolla.com

Can You Drive While High in Los Angeles? Marijuana DUI Laws Explained

This post is part of our Best Dispensary in Los Angeles series, sponsored by Project Cannabis.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, an important question has started to come up with more frequency: Can you really drive while high in Los Angeles? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. The good news is that you can still enjoy pot for medicinal and recreational purposes in LA. 


However, when getting behind the wheel, you must be mindful of the laws when driving high while in Los Angeles. To that end, here are the highlights about driving high laws so you can potentially avoid a marijuana DUI. 

Understanding Marijuana DUI Laws in California

There might be some confusion surrounding marijuana DUI in California.  Namely because when asked, “Is weed legal in Los Angeles?” The answer is emphatically, yes. Since 2018, California legalized the use of recreational pot. But can you drive while high in California? That answer is an equally emphatic “no.”  Like alcohol, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana in the state of California. And just like alcohol or other potentially mind-altering substances, you could stand to get a DUI (driving while under the influence).

So, regarding marijuana DUI, California state can take similar actions as driving under the influence of alcohol.  This means that you could be subject to the same penalties as an alcohol DUI conviction, including jail time, fines, and license suspension if you are caught driving while high in Los Angeles. That said, if you have to ask can you drive high in California – the answer is no. Therefore, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid doing so altogether.

Driving High Laws Prescott Arizona

What Can Prove Cannabis DUI Impairment

There are a few ways that police can test whether or not you are impaired by marijuana. They may conduct a field sobriety test, which involves things like walking in a straight line or touching your nose. They may also use a device called a portable breathalyzer to measure the THC levels in your system. Or they may simply observe your behavior and look for signs of impairment, such as red eyes or slurred speech. Some signs law enforcement look for when proving if you are driving while high in Los Angeles include:

  • Odd or erratic driving patterns
  • Incoherent or abnormal speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Sluggishness or slow reaction times
  • Unusual behavior and mannerisms
  • Bloodshot eyes and/or dilated pupils
  • Actual weed or marijuana paraphernalia in or around the vehicle
  • The odor of marijuana and clear signs pot has been used while driving

When the State Can Convict for Marijuana DUI Charge

In most cases, marijuana DUI in California is typically a misdemeanor charge.  However, there are some circumstances that can be bumped up to a hefty conviction.  For instance, if driving under the influence of pot results in an injury or death to another, then this could manifest into a felony charge and jail time.  

Additionally, if you’re caught driving high in Los Angeles and you already have multiple DUI charges on your record – you may face more stringent convictions according to California DUI state laws.  

Put succinctly, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in LA. This includes marijuana. If a police officer believes that you are impaired by marijuana while driving, they can arrest you and charge you with a DUI as appropriate to your record and the circumstances.

How Do You Test For Cannabis DUI?

There are a few ways law enforcement can test for weed DUI in California. One method is through a blood test. If you are pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence, the officer may request a blood test. Lab results will either confirm or deny the levels of marijuana compounds in your system. However, blood tests can be inaccurate, especially if the driver smoked marijuana several hours before getting behind the wheel.

The second way is through a urine test. Urine tests are less accurate than blood tests, but they can still provide law enforcement with valuable information about a driver’s THC levels.

Finally, the third way is through field sobriety tests. Officers often use field sobriety tests to evaluate whether or not a driver is impaired by marijuana. These tests typically involve things like asking the driver to walk in a straight line or stand on one leg. If the officer believes the driver is impaired, further action may be taken.

Are Chemical Tests for Marijuana DUI Reliable?

As marijuana legalization continues to spread across the country, law enforcement officers are struggling to keep up with the changing landscape. In states where recreational marijuana is legal, such as California, law enforcement diligently explores ways to determine if a driver is under the influence of the drug. As mentioned, there are already methods in place to test for cannabis, such as blood tests and urine tests.

However, many experts are skeptical of the reliability of these tests, as THC can stay in a person’s system long after the effects of the drug have worn off. This means that someone could be charged with DUI even if they smoked marijuana days or weeks before getting behind the wheel.

Overall, more research must be done on marijuana testing before chemical tests can be considered ironclad evidence of impairment. Until then, drivers should be aware of the risks involved in driving while high to avoid getting a marijuana DUI in Los Angeles.

Can You Refuse to Take a Chemical Test for Cannabis DUI?

If you are pulled over and the officer believes you are under the influence of cannabis, you may be asked to submit to a chemical test to determine your THC levels.

You can refuse to take the chemical test, but if you do, you will face automatic penalties. For instance, your driver’s license will be immediately and you could be subjected to civil fines if you decline DUI testing. If you have prior DUI convictions on your record, the penalties for refusing a chemical test are even harsher.  

Penalties & Fines for Driving While High in Los Angeles

As we’ve clearly identified so far, driving while high in Los Angeles is 100% illegal.  So, if you are caught driving while high, you could be facing stiff penalties and fines. You may also stand to serve jail time – not to mention unsavory marks on your record.

The penalties for driving while high in Los Angeles depend on a number of factors. Here is a general guideline about penalties and fines for driving while high in Los Angeles according to the California Vehicle Code:

First Conviction

Anyone faced with a first-time marijuana DUI in Los Angeles may be subjected to jail time, fines, or driver’s license revocation.  Depending upon the circumstances, jail time for a first-time offense could be anywhere from 96 hours to six months.  Fines can be as high as $1000 for a first-time weed DUI.  Last but not least, your license to drive could be suspended for up to a year.

Second Conviction

As you might imagine, each consecutive offense gets more grave. Therefore, if you are caught with a second marijuana DUI conviction within 10 years, you can expect to be slapped with a jail time sentence of 90 to 365 days, fines anywhere from $390 to $1000, license suspension for two years, and if that’s not enough to harsh your mellow – you’ll be required to attend a state-mandated DUI and substance abuse reform program.

Third Conviction

If you thought the first and second penalties were tough, it only worsens with each consecutive offense.  To illustrate, a third conviction for driving high while in Los Angeles within 10 years could get you up to a year behind bars with jail time.  The fines for a pot DUI could be $1000 or more, and you can expect your driver’s license to be revoked for a minimum of three years.  A third conviction will also get you a front seat at a state-mandated DUI school for 30 days.

Fourth and Following Convictions

If you’re familiar with the baseball adage “three strikes and you’re out,” then you’ve got a pretty good idea what a fourth marijuana DUI conviction will get you.  Essentially, a fourth conviction within 10 years is a tremendous strike against your freedom, livelihood, and potentially devastating for your future.  

Remember all those penalties and fines mentioned in convictions one through three? Bundle all those up and multiply.  In other words, you can expect to pay a load of money in fines ($1000 and likely more), four or more years in jail, and a guaranteed suspicion of your driver’s license for four or more years.  Now, add other buzzkill penalties such as house arrest, DUI school, a mandated ignition interlock device on your vehicle, community service, and a drug abuse rehabilitation program.  

DUI Conviction Within 10 Years of Other Felonies

If you have been convicted of a DUI within 10 years of any other felony, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for four years. You will also be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle and complete an approved drunk driving education program.  But wait, that’s not all you can look forward to.  You may also expect to serve up to three years in state prison (that’s prison, folks – not jail), and of course, you’ll have to pay hefty fines.  

The future looks even bleaker if your DUI resulted in death or injury and you have other felonies on your record.  If that is the case, you can expect to just surrender to up to 16 years of prison time, blinding fines (plus compensation to any injured parties involved), and you can basically kiss your driver’s license goodbye for five or more years.

How Can Cannabis Affect Driving Ability?

Cannabis can affect a person’s ability to drive in various ways. The most common way that cannabis can impact driving is by causing impaired judgment and slowed reaction times. This can make it difficult for drivers to react to changing traffic conditions or make safe decisions while driving. Additionally, cannabis can cause drivers to experience drowsiness and fatigue, which can also impact their ability to drive safely.

How to Avoid a Marijuana DUI?

After reading about all the seriously messed up complications to your life (and potentially the lives of others) we hope we’ve adequately addressed any curiosities that might go along with the question, “Can you drive high in California?”  If we conveyed the message correctly, then it should be clear that avoiding a marijuana DUI in Los Angeles is critical to keeping you out of some intensely unpleasant consequences.

So, rule number one when it comes to avoiding a weed DUI is: Simply don’t drive while you’re buzzed on pot.  If you must drive, wait a minimum of eight hours before getting behind the wheel after using.  Your best bet to avoid getting crosswise with the law is to abstain from using, keep paraphernalia and pot out of your car, drive safely (and soberly), abide by traffic laws, etc. 

Best Dispensaries in Los Angeles

Project Cannabist dispensary in SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco

We are fully aware that talking about the realities of driving while high in Los Angeles can be a major buzz kill.  But it doesn’t have to be.  The truth is you can enjoy some of the finest marijuana on the planet in California.  In fact, the best dispensaries in Los Angeles carry primo weed products.  Choose from high-octane gummies, superior kush, accessories, and more.  A quick online search will reveal the usual suspects when it comes to dispensaries in LA.  

However, we want to recommend Project Cannabis in North Hollywood. Why? Because their staff are incredibly well-versed and ultra-helpful.  Their stock is arguably the best in town, and they’ve earned an enviable reputation for carrying the highest quality herb in the area.      

Final Thoughts

As Californians, we have so many luxuries other states don’t – including the freedom to enjoy marijuana recreationally.  Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that if these luxuries are abused or taken for granted – dire consequences may follow.  So, enjoy your smoke, have a blast at the various 420 events in Los Angeles, have a pot party, or toke a bowl.  Just don’t do it while driving in Los Angeles!


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