How Did Marijuana Legalization Affect DUI/OWI Law in Washington D.C.?

Decriminalization of recreational marijuana use had no impact on District of Columbia DUI/OWI law.

In November 2014, D.C. voters legalized recreational marijuana use by passing “Initiative 71.” 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 DUI (driving under the influence)/OWI (operating while impaired) law in the District of Columbia?

The short answer—marijuana legalization had no impact on DUI/OWI law. Here’s why.

In D.C., you can get a DUI or OWI for operating or being in physical control of a vehicle while your “ability to operate or be in physical control of a vehicle is affected, due to consumption of alcohol or a drug or a combination thereof, in a way that can be perceived or noticed.” (D.C. Code Ann. § § 50-2206.01(8), 50-2206.11, 50-2206.14 (2016); Taylor v. D.C., 49 A.3d 1259 (2012).)

So, anyone who drives while impaired or affected—as defined above—can be convicted of a DUI or OWI. It doesn’t matter that the driver may have ingested marijuana legally. Initiative 71 even included a provision that explicitly said the new law didn’t affect existing DUI/OWI law. (D.C. Code Ann. § 48-904.01(a)(1D) (2016).)

(Read about the consequences of a Washington DUI/OWI conviction.)

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