Driving While High Laws in San Francisco & Marijuana DUI Explained | Lajolla.com

Understanding Marijuana DUI in San Francisco

This post is part of our Best Dispensaries Around the Bay Area series, sponsored by Project Cannabis.

As you may already know, driving in San Francisco can be challenging in its own right. When you think about operating a heap of tonnage on wheels in SF traffic and dicey weather conditions, it’s not surprising that accidents happen.  Now think about driving while high in San Francisco. This is an extra level of risk-taking that simply should not factor into any driver’s equation.  At least, that’s what the state of California maintains. That’s why there are San Francisco weed laws regarding driving under the influence of marijuana. 


So, if you’re asking questions like, “Can you drive high in California?” or wondering about potential consequences or even legal implications when it comes to driving in SF on a pot buzz – then please read further for all the information you need to know.

Can You Drive While High in California?

Nope. No. Absolutely not.  Now, you might retort to this emphatic “no” about whether or not it is illegal to drive high in San Francisco or the state of California by saying, “But so-and-so drives while high!”  To this, we ask you, if so-and-so jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you do so too?  You get the idea.

We’re hammering the illegality of driving while high in San Francisco because you could stand to get in a lot of hot water if you get a weed DUI in California.  Not only could you face budget-bashing fines, you could also find yourself behind bars (yes, we mean jail time).  Even worse yet – you could potentially injure or kill yourself or someone else while driving high.

Now, we’re not trying to harsh your mellow, and we’re certainly not against enjoying some ultra-sweet bud.  And when you consider the answer to the question, “Is weed legal in San Francisco?” is a resounding (and joyful) “yes!” – then you know we aren’t wagging our fingers at taking advantage of the recreational use of pot.  However, the state of California draws a hard line when it comes to driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana, and this article will provide you with the San Francisco weed laws you need to know about.

Driving while high in San Francisco

How Cannabis DUI Impaired Driving Can Be Proven?

There are a few ways in which law enforcement can attempt to show that a driver is impaired by cannabis. The most common methods are chemical tests which we’ll discuss in greater detail further in this article. In addition to chemical testing, law enforcement can also observe tell-tale signs indicating someone is high while driving.  These signs include:

  • Bloodshot eyes and/or dilated pupils
  • Suspicious or paranoid behavior
  • Slow reaction times
  • Sluggish or incomprehensible speech
  • Lack of motor function and/or coordination
  • Risky driving behavior (swerving, erratic driving)
  • Evidence of weed in the vehicle (paraphernalia, wrappers, baggies, etc.)
  • The presence of smoke, resin, or the odor of pot in the vehicle

When Can You Be Convicted for Cannabis DUI Charge?

Most marijuana charges in CA are treated as misdemeanors. But in the long-run, it doesn’t really matter how much weed can you carry in California if you get caught driving while high because the charges can be steep.   This is especially true if you’ve already been convicted of a marijuana DUI or have other felonies on your record. If this is the case, you can expect to be convicted and harshly punished.  

Furthermore, you can be convicted for a cannabis DUI charge if law enforcement and prosecutors can prove you were driving while high.   The most common way to determine if someone is actually impaired by cannabis at the time they are driving is through a combination of chemical tests (such as urine or blood tests), as well as any other relevant evidence (such as witness testimony). 

In some cases, it can be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was impaired by cannabis at the time of driving, but a conviction is certainly possible if law enforcement and prosecutors are able to gather enough evidence.

Which Tests Can Be Done to Prove Cannabis DUI in SF?

There are various tests that can be done in order to prove cannabis DUI in San Francisco. Some of these tests include:

Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to measure the THC levels in a driver’s system. However, since THC can stay in a person’s system for up to 30 days, this test may not accurately reflect whether or not a driver was actually impaired at the time of the incident.

Urine tests: Urine tests can also be used to measure THC levels. However, like blood tests, they may not be accurate if the driver consumed cannabis more than a few days before the incident.

Saliva tests: Saliva tests are less common than blood and urine tests, but they can also be used to measure THC levels. Saliva tests are generally considered to be more accurate than blood and urine tests, as THC is typically only detectable in saliva for a few hours after consumption.

Field sobriety test: A field sobriety test (FST) is a series of physical and mental exercises that are administered by police officers on suspected impaired drivers. The results of an FST can provide officers with probable cause to arrest a driver for DUI, but they are far from foolproof.

Drug Recognition Expert evaluation: A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) is a specially trained police officer who is able to identify signs of impairment in drivers.

Can Marijuana DUI Chemical Tests Be Reliable?

All the methods for testing levels of marijuana we just mentioned are not 100% infallible.  In reality, chemical testing can be a bit hit-and-miss, and it’s a controversy that rages for cannabis users, law enforcement, and legal professionals alike.  

The reason for less-than-accurate results from marijuana testing primarily boils down to timing. To explain, the compound in weed that produces a high (known as THC) can stay in the bloodstream for an extended period of time – days, weeks, or even a year – which can influence test results.  Moreover, lab tests cannot conclusively pinpoint the amount of cannabis taken or smoked.  For these chief reasons, chemical tests are not as reliable as law enforcement and prosecutors would hope.

Is It Possible to Refuse a Chemical Test for a Cannabis DUI in San Francisco?

In San Francisco, it is possible to refuse a chemical test for a cannabis DUI. However, there are consequences for doing so. If you refuse a chemical test, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended. In addition, you will be subject to other penalties, such as fines or jail time.

Consequences for Driving While High in San Francisco

In San Francisco, the consequences of driving high can be substantial and put a huge kibosh on your lifestyle. If you are caught driving while under the influence of marijuana, you may face a fine, jail time, or both.  While that sounds like a tremendous bummer – there are still additional penalties, such as getting your driver’s license suspended, house arrest, and state-mandated drug rehabilitation, that can make your life even more unbearable.  Here is a rundown of consequences you may face if you are caught driving while high in San Francisco.

First Conviction

Anyone facing a first-time marijuana DUI in San Francisco may be subjected to jail time, fines, or driver’s license revocation.  Depending upon the circumstances at the time of DUI, jail time for a first-time offense could be anywhere from 96 hours to six months.  Fines can be huge, hefty, and as high as $1000 for a first-time cannabis-related DUI.  If all that isn’t bad enough, your license to drive could be revoked for up to a year.

Second Conviction

Sure, the penalties for a first-time conviction for a marijuana DUI in California are bad enough – but trust us – it only gets worse. For a second conviction within 10 years, you can expect an all-expenses-paid stay in the SF jail system for 90 days or as long as a year.  The fines are the same – anywhere from $400 – $1000, but the suspension of your license will increase by a year, leaving you incapable of driving for two full years.  The state of California will also demand you attend a state-approved DUI substance abuse program after a second offense. 

Third Conviction

And the hits keep on coming – a third conviction within 10 years will get you a minimum of 120 days in jail (and up to a year).  You’ll lose the use of your driver’s license for a minimum of three years.  Of course, there will be fines to pay, and a third conviction will also have you required to go to a state-mandated DUI school for a minimum of 30 days.

Fourth and Following Convictions

Talk about a buzz kill.  Four or more weed DUI convictions within 10 years will not be a good look for you.  You can expect to pay thousands in fines and four or more years in jail, and you can forget about driving because your license will be useless (revoked) for four or more years.  If that doesn’t compel you to avoid driving while high in San Francisco, then consider other penalties such as home arrest, more DUI school attendance, drug abuse rehabilitation, doing community service, and having your vehicle fixed with an ignition interlock device.

DUI Conviction Within 10 Years of Other Felonies

Jail is hell, but prison is a whole new infernal batch of misery – and prison time is what you can expect if you have multiple felonies combined with a cannabis DUI conviction.  Under these circumstances, you can expect to spend 16 months or up to three years in state prison.  Again, not a good look for you.  

Of course, your bank account will also go through its own prison because the fines for your crimes will be explosive ($5000 or more).  Not to mention the possibility of paying restitution if there were other injured parties involved with the DUI.  Then there are 18 to 30 months of DUI school to look forward to. Oh, and don’t even think about having a driver’s license – at least not after four or more years.  

Does Cannabis Affect Your Driving Ability Same as Alcohol?

Anybody who has experienced a marijuana high and an alcohol buzz can attest there are different sensations to both.  While the effects of alcohol and pot may feel different – the fact remains – both substances can impair your ability to drive.  Driving while high on marijuana is similar to driving while intoxicated by alcohol in that it reduces reaction time, causes compromised vision, impairs judgment, clouds mental clarity, and most people experience impaired coordination.  

How to Avoid Being Charged with a Marijuana DUI?

At the risk of sounding cheeky, we’d recommend simply not driving while high in San Francisco. This is your best guarantee of staying compliant with San Francisco weed laws and avoiding a marijuana DUI.    If you must drive, schedule your pot time appropriately by knowing how long to wait before driving.  For some, this might mean waiting 8 hours before getting behind the wheel after ingesting or smoking marijuana – for others, it might be longer.  Know your limits, and be aware of your condition before risking compromised driving ability.  

You should also keep your vehicle clean and clear of any pot or marijuana paraphernalia because that could be an invitation for suspicion from law enforcement.  An even better way to avoid being charged with a marijuana DUI is to call an Uber or Lyft.  Ultimately, getting caught buzzed while driving isn’t worth the long-term consequences of being charged with a weed DUI in California.

San Francisco Dispensaries to Consider

Now that we’ve clarified the unsavory and vibe-crushing ways a marijuana DUI can ruin your life – let’s get to the good stuff.  We’re talking about the luxury of obtaining sweet scores from some of the best dispensaries around the Bay Area.  One of the beautiful things about living in California is that we have some of the best weed and cannabis products on the planet – hands down.   

Take Project Cannabis in San Francisco, for example.  This is a top-notch establishment with experienced staff willing to help you find the perfect leaf, bud, resin, edible, drinkable, or whatever tickles your fancy.  Their stock is unprecedented, and they also have a delivery service, so you don’t even have to think about driving while high in San Francisco!  

Of course, there are multiple SF dispensaries, such as MedMen, Barbary Coast, and Mission Cannabis.  However, our prize pick is still Proj Can because of their legendary customer service and ultra-high-quality products.


In closing, we hope we’ve thoroughly answered all your questions about driving while high in San Francisco.  We don’t want you to feel paranoid, but it’s important to know where you stand when it comes to enjoying all the benefits of primo bud – while still staying safe and abiding by California state laws.  So savor the luxury of having access to incredible weed in CA – just don’t indulge in it while driving in the state!


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