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Since the passing of Amendment 2, medicinal marijuana has been legal in Florida. Until March 2019, only extracts, oil, tinctures (a concentrated liquid form), and edibles were allowed. 

That all changed when Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill making smokable medical marijuana legal in the Sunshine State. This is of course great news for individuals dealing with the pain caused by certain, and often terminal, conditions that sometimes only marijuana can ease. 

But with full-blown medical marijuana acceptance firmly in place, some questions are raised. One that comes up frequently is the legality of driving while using legalized medical marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Statistics & History in Florida

The medical marijuana industry in Florida has seen a steady increase in size since voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 2014. Initially, the act only permitted use of low-THC cannabis. 

Following that, the state voted in favor of the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, in 2016, which enabled doctors to allow medical marijuana to be provided as a treatment for patients who experienced a list of specific diseases, including:

  • cancer
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • multiple sclerosis

Doctors are also able to certify patients after diagnosing other debilitating conditions of the same kind, and higher THC products were approved for medical use as well. 

This led to the creation of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, which implements the Florida Department of Health’s rules. The cannabis industry in Florida continues to grow. As of 2021, Florida saw over 560,000 medical marijuana patients, and that number grew to over 700,00 patients in 2022.

There are currently 22 approved medical marijuana treatment centers operating in the Sunshine State to provide medical cannabis to patients who are certified by their doctors to use cannabis products to treat their qualifying conditions. Given that marijuana is still considered one of the many controlled substances on the federal level and remains federally illegal, there is some confusion around marijuana laws at the state level in Florida. 

As of 2023, marijuana is not approved for recreational use in Florida. Therefore, those who are using cannabis products without a medical marijuana certification from a qualified physician can face charges. 

But for medical marijuana patients, there are lots of questions about legality in terms of how, where, and when they can use their cannabis for medical use. One of the most common questions is, “Can you drive high if you have a medical marijuana card?”

Driving When Using Medical Marijuana

Everyone knows it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but those who’ve been medically approved for marijuana may think this doesn’t apply to them. It’s important to understand that it very much does. 

Studies have found a direct relationship between the concentration level of THC (the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects) in a person’s blood and impaired driving ability, including slowed reaction times.

For this reason, Florida — and all other states where medical marijuana is legal — does not allow individuals to drive when using the drug. Just like any other driver using alcohol or marijuana while driving, those approved for medical marijuana can receive a DUI, with penalties ranging from fines to jail time.

How is Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Determined?

Unlike alcohol, police can’t simply give an individual a breath test to determine intoxication levels — at least not at the scale and level of accuracy as alcohol breath tests. There are a number of companies developing THC breathalyzers, but the technology is still in early stages of implementation. 

In addition, traditional field sobriety tests are unreliable when it comes to marijuana impairment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration even states that, "It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects … it is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations.”

Blood and urine testing pose another problem. Even if THC is detected in a person’s blood or urine, the results do little to predict actual impairment at the time of driving because THC remains in the blood and urine far longer than the impairment lasts. And while some states do conduct physical tests for marijuana, and have set a standard of one to five nanograms of THC to identify pot-impaired driving, Florida is not one of them.

Determining Marijuana Impairment

So how do police officers determine marijuana impairment? Generally, one of three ways:

  • A person blows under the legal limit for alcohol yet still seems impaired
  • The smell of marijuana lingers in the car or on the individual
  • Marijuana is discovered in the car or on the individual

If one of these three factors are present, they will usually call in a Drug Recognition Expert (or DRE). The DRE will look for physical signs that point to marijuana usage, including glassy or bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, swaying, and slurred speech.

Going to Court for Marijuana DUI

To be convicted of a DUI related to marijuana in Florida, a prosecutor must prove that the driver was actually impaired. They will rely on law enforcement reports or dashcam footage, which may show that the driver was going well above or below the speed limit, swerving in and out of lanes, following others too closely, using the wrong blinker during a turn, or making sudden accelerations and stops. They’ll also rely upon statements provided by the DRE.

While Florida has been great strides in marijuana acceptance for medical purposes, make no mistake: they will come down on people for driving under the influence of marijuana. After all, it was only a year ago that the Florida Highway Patrol began a “Drive Baked, Get Busted” campaign.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a person who you suspect has been driving under the influence of marijuana, do not hesitate to call and speak directly with one of our DUI accident injury victim lawyers. We will help you get the compensation you deserve.


Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Marijuana Laws In Florida

Is it legal to driving when using medical marijuana?

No. As noted in this blog post, drivers who are driving while impaired on marijuana can be charged with driving under the influence.

Can law enforcement access the Medical Marijuana Use Registry of Florida?

Generally speaking, no because as with all medical treatments, patients are assured that their privacy will be protected. However, if law enforcement is investigating violations of marijuana laws, they can access the Medical Marijuana Use Registry of Florida to confirm patient status. 

Can medical marijuana patients drive with medical cannabis products?

As a registered medical marijuana patient, yes you are permitted to drive with products in your possession. For example, this includes if you're driving home from a treatment center with your products or bringing your treatment with you.

However, patients cannot administer their products in the vehicle or be under the influence of medical cannabis while operating a motor vehicle. Law enforcement can search your vehicle if they have probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed. 

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