How Did Marijuana Legalization Affect Alaska OUI/DUI Law?

Decriminalization of recreational marijuana use had no impact on Alaska OUI/DUI law.

In November 2014, Alaska voters legalized recreational marijuana use by passing “Ballot Measure 2.” The measure led to the enactment of legislation called “An Act to Tax and Regulate the Production, sale, and Use of Marijuana.” After the new legislation was passed, many people had concerns about impaired marijuana users on the roadways. But how, if at all, did marijuana decriminalization affect Alaska OUI (operating under the influence)/DUI (driving under the influence) law?

The short answer—marijuana legalization had no impact on Alaska OUI law. And here’s why.

In Alaska, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, or any other drug. A person is considered “under the influence” if “the use of the person’s physical or mental abilities is so impaired that he or she no longer has the ability to operate a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a person of ordinary prudence who is not under the influence.” (Alaska Stat. Ann. § 28.35.030 (2016);  Gundersen v. Municipality of Anchorage, 762 P.2d 104 (1990).)

So, anyone who drives while under the influence of marijuana—as defined above—can be convicted of an OUI. It doesn’t matter that the driver may have ingested marijuana legally. To dispel any doubt, the new legislation included a provision that said, “[n]othing in this chapter is intended to allow driving under the influence of marijuana or to supersede laws related to driving under the influence of marijuana.” (Alaska Stat. Ann. § 17.38.220(b) (2016).)

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