Can You Get a DUI While Using Medical Marijuana in Florida?

Florida law recognizes the therapeutic value of medical marijuana in certain cases in which a person receives certified authorization from the State of Florida to use, possess, and even cultivate a limited quantity of cannabis. However, while many people can lawfully use marijuana for medicinal purposes, they still cannot drive while under the influence of cannabis or any other drug. Doing so can lead to arrest and prosecution for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). 



Medical Marijuana in Florida 

In 2014, the Florida Legislature passed the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act,” allowing limited use of low-THC cannabis for qualifying patients. This marked the beginning of the state’s acknowledgment of marijuana’s potential therapeutic benefits. Then in 2016, Amendment 2, known as the “Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative” passed. This amendment expanded the scope of medical marijuana usage, permitting the use of higher-THC cannabis for a broader range of medical conditions. 

Under this law, patients diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, among others, could qualify for medical marijuana treatment.  


DUI Laws and Medical Marijuana in Florida 

Despite the evolution of Florida’s medical marijuana laws, DUI laws in Florida remain very stringent and are intended to maximize road safety by penalizing impaired driving.  

Under Florida Statute 316.193, a person is guilty of DUI if they are found to be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages, chemical substances, or controlled substances, including marijuana, to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired. 


The Impact of Medical Marijuana on DUI Charges 

It’s crucial for patients using medical marijuana legally to understand the intersection of DUI laws and medical marijuana. Although legal for medicinal purposes, marijuana is still classified as a controlled substance under federal law. Consequently, using medical marijuana does not exempt patients from DUI laws if they are determined to be impaired while driving. 

Standard for Impairment 

  • In Florida, the standard for DUI related to marijuana is not based on a specific threshold, such as the 0.08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) for alcohol. Instead, it hinges on whether the driver’s normal faculties are impaired. This standard is more subjective and relies heavily on the observations and judgments of the police officers who conduct traffic stops of Florida motorists. 

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) 

  • Officers may administer FSTs to determine the degree of a driver’s impairment. However, these tests were developed primarily for alcohol impairment and do not accurately reflect marijuana impairment. The reliability of FSTs in marijuana-related DUIs can be challenged because of the field sobriety tests’ effectiveness in detecting cannabis impairment. 

Chemical Tests 

  • Unlike alcohol, where breathalyzer tests provide immediate results, detecting marijuana impairment typically involves blood or urine tests. These tests can show the presence of THC (the psychoactive component in marijuana) but do not necessarily correlate with impairment levels. THC can remain in a person’s system for up to 30 days and can be identified even months later in hair samples. This creates the potential for skilled DUI defense lawyers to press qualitative challenges to  
  • the prosecution’s attempt to prove actual impairment at the time of driving. 


Defending Against Marijuana-Related DUI Charges 

Given the complexities involved, defending against marijuana-related DUI charges requires extensive experience and a comprehensive knowledge of Florida law. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, our DUI defense lawyers use several strategies to successfully challenge the prosecution’s evidence in DUI cases: 

  1. Challenging the Basis of the Traffic Stop: 

We scrutinize the circumstances leading to the traffic stop. If the officer lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to initiate the stop, any evidence gathered thereafter might be suppressed. 

  1. Questioning the Administration of FSTs: 

Contesting the validity of FSTs can be a productive defense strategy, particularly if they were not conducted in accordance with standardized procedures. Since FSTs for marijuana impairment are not as definitive as those for alcohol, their results can be challenged as unreliable indicators of impairment. 

  1. Evaluating Chemical Test Procedures: 

The accuracy and handling of blood or urine tests are critical. Stechschulte Nell lawyers examine whether the tests were conducted properly. If the samples were stored and processed incorrectly, or if the testing equipment was not maintained and calibrated as required by regulations, the results should be inadmissible in court. 

  1. Medical Marijuana Prescription Defense: 
  • While having a medical marijuana card does not automatically immunize you from DUI charges, it can provide context for the presence of THC in the system. Among the viable defenses is the argument that the detected levels of THC are consistent with regular medical use rather than recent impairment. 

For medical marijuana patients in Florida, it’s essential to be aware of the legal and practical implications of using marijuana and driving.  


Read More > Florida DUI Laws & Medical Marijuana 


Practical Tips to Reduce the Risk of a Florida Marijuana-DUI Charge 

Avoid Driving Soon After Use 

Since the effects of marijuana can vary, patients should avoid driving soon after smoking or consuming cannabis. Understanding your reaction to marijuana is critical in assessing when it is safe to drive. 

Documenting Medical Use 

Keeping thorough documentation of medical marijuana use, including your doctor’s recommendations and dosages, can be helpful if questioned by law enforcement and brought before the courts. 

Understanding Legal Rights 

Knowing your legal rights during traffic stops and DUI investigations is crucial. For example, patients should understand their right to refuse FSTs, although this might have legal repercussions. Field sobriety tests are legally compulsory in Florida. Their primary legal use is to permit the police to develop evidence that will form probable cause to arrest the driver.  

Florida’s DUI laws, together with evolving medical marijuana legislation, present complex challenges for patients using cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Understanding the intricacies of these laws and how they apply to driving is crucial for medical marijuana patients to avoid legal pitfalls. 

Call Our Experienced DUI Defense Lawyers Today 

At Stechschulte Nell Attorneys at Law in Tampa, our experienced DUI defense lawyers are adept at managing these complexities to protect the rights of drivers facing marijuana-related DUI charges. By challenging the evidence and procedures used by law enforcement, we work to ensure that our clients receive a vigorous and effective defense. Give Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law a call today. 

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