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Illinois’ compassionate marijuana law and DUI

Illinois has joined a few other states in adopting a law that allows for medicinal use of marijuana. It is known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. Public Act 98-0122 It is a “pilot program” in that if lawmakers do not renew the program, it automatically expires four years from its January 1, 2014 effective date.

In order to qualify for the program, a patient must be under a doctor’s care for one of thirty-three specified medical conditions for which the doctor certifies marijuana is an effective therapy. Upon being so qualified, the patient may then obtain a certificate from the Illinois Department of Public Health to become a legal medical marijuana patient.

Registered patients may not be arrested or prosecuted for criminal penalties as long as they are following the mandates of the law. Nor can it be used against them in child custody disputes, in renting property or in school or employment.

In general, doctors may authorize up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. But this does not mean it is legally to drive high even if you have a marijuana permit.

The Illinois DUI law for medical marijuana differs from standard DUI law. This applies to both the criminal penalties and driver’s license consequences.


As in any driving situation, it remains illegal to operate a motor vehicle anywhere in the State of Illinois while under the influence of marijuana. 625 ILCS 5/11-501 However, Illinois has a separate “any amount” law that makes it illegal to have any amount of marijuana in your “blood, breath or urine”.

In such cases, the State need not prove that you are under the influence of marijuana but simply that it (or any other drug) is in your blood, breath or urine. People v. Martin, 2011 IL 109102 The problem with this law is particularly acute as pertains to marijuana, as it can stay in your system for as long as thirty days after you have smoked it, which means that you could be guilty of DUI even though you are not in any way shape or form impaired by it.

There is legislation pending that would make it illegal, but not a driving offense, for anybody to drive with an amount of marijuana that was detectable yet too little to impair his or her driving. For now though, only those holding a medical marijuana card are permitted to defend an “any amount” charge on the basis that they are not actually impaired. However, driving under the influence of marijuana will remain a DUI offense for everyone, whether or not they hold a card.

The compassionate use law also makes substantial changes in regular DUI law. Anyone who has a medical marijuana card and who refuses the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) is subject a driver’s license suspension. Furthermore, the General Assembly has declared that the SFST, which in reality are designed only to test for alcohol impairment, are now valid indicators of marijuana impairment.

Related posts:

Legal status of breath test refusals in Illinois December 27, 2013, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg,
Illinois Supreme Court rules on important Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case April 22, 2011, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg

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