What Marijuana Legalization Would Mean for a Texas DWI Arrest

Posted by Doug Murphy | Feb 05, 2021 | 0 Comments

The report is that in early 2020 the Texas legislature will again consider legislation legalizing marijuana use. Last year, the governor signed legislation allowing Texas farmers to grow low-THC hemp, already legal for sale in Texas. The report indicates the legislature also last year included terminal cancer and autism as medical conditions qualifying Texas residents for a low-THC medical-cannabis program. THC is the psychoactive element in marijuana.

The question of marijuana legalization is fraught with social, cultural, medical, and economic considerations. The report indicates that legislators in Texas divide on the issue, just as they do in other states, the Texas House having passed a decriminalization bill last year, only to have it die in the Senate. Other states are joining the legalization trend. Consider, though, what legalization would mean for DWI arrests in Texas.

Driving Under Marijuana's Influence Can Lead to a DWI Arrest

Decriminalizing marijuana in Texas wouldn't change the grounds for a DWI arrest. Texas Penal Code Section 49.04(a) defines a DWI as when “the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.” Intoxication, whether from alcohol or drugs, is the statute's element, not the legality or illegality of the intoxicating agent. Most DWI charges involve intoxication from perfectly legal alcohol. Some DWI charges involve intoxication from perfectly legal drugs.

For this reason, authorities can arrest and charge with a DWI those drivers who have smoked marijuana or otherwise ingested its psychoactive agent to intoxicating effect. The DWI arrest and charge would not change depending on whether the driver ingested the marijuana legally or illegally, for medical or recreational reasons. See further discussion of marijuana DWI here.

Legalization May Increase Marijuana-DWI Arrests

Indeed, reports in Texas and other states suggest that marijuana legalization may increase rather than decrease marijuana-DWI arrests. Because the question is intoxication rather than the legality of the intoxicant, when legalization increases use of the intoxicant, DWI arrests related to the legalized intoxicant naturally go up. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports a growing pattern of increased marijuana-DWI arrests, citing one Washington state study indicating that fatal marijuana-DWI accidents doubled after state marijuana legalization.

Texas reports [could link to the drunk-drugged blog instead of the report] already indicate increases in marijuana-DWI and other illegal-drug-DWI test results over the past few years, especially among younger drivers. Legalizing marijuana in Texas would, with wider marijuana use, very likely increase marijuana-DWI charges.

Defending Marijuana-DWI Charges

Just because prosecutors charge a marijuana DWI doesn't mean the charge will stick. Marijuana's psychoactive effects are not necessarily intoxicating for all persons at all levels. The discussion here cites a controlled federal study indicating no significant link between marijuana use and fatal crashes, other reports notwithstanding. DWI Specialist Doug Murphy knows how to use studies to cross-examine prosecution forensic experts on marijuana's potential for contributing to an accident, showing their testimony to be unreliable.

If you face a marijuana-DWI charge, then you need 2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year Doug Murphy's help to defend and defeat the charge. Read more here on how Doug Murphy defends a DWI case and here why a DWI Specialist is your best defense. Know your DWI rights, and retain Doug Murphy to preserve and enforce those rights. Doug Murphy is a Board Certified DWI specialist and one of only two Texas lawyers holding both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today. Trust Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy with your DWI defense.

About the Author

Doug Murphy

Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and also in DWI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.


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