It is now legal to transport in vehicles certain amounts of cannabis by people 21 years and older.
However, it doesn’t mean you can light up and smoke while driving, according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. That also goes for passengers.
State officials say a driver may not operate a motor vehicle while impaired by the use of cannabis, whether used medically or recreationally.
Residents of Illinois are able to possess up to 30 grams of raw cannabis; cannabis-infused product or products containing a total of no more than 500 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); and 5 grams of cannabis product in concentrated form. A person can possess the maximum amount in each category at the same time.
The cannabis must be in a sealed, child restraint container, as well as odorless and inaccessible during transport.
“We are still trying to get up to speed with the new laws, some of it isn’t very clear,” Manteno Police Chief Al Swinford said. “We had training with [Kankakee County State’s Attorney] Jim Rowe the other day to get their perspective on what they will and won’t charge. But in the end I don’t think it will have a huge impact on law enforcement either way.”
Rowe and Assistant State’s Attorney Val Gunderson went over changes to the law that took effect Jan. 1, including the act legalizing cannabis and DUI-cannabis violations.
When it comes to determining if a driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of cannabis, police use the same field sobriety tests to determine if they have probable cause to arrest and charge a person with DUI-alcohol.
Officers will evaluate a driver’s behavior based on their actions and reactions when asked for their license, registration and valid insurance card. They will check to see if you are slurring your words, acting confused or have glassy eyes.
Refusing to perform sobriety tests will result in your license being suspended for a year.
If an officer smells the presence of cannabis or the driver admits to cannabis use, he or she can be arrested and charged with DUI-cannabis.
Unlike breath tests for drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, there currently is no validated roadside chemical tests that are approved by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration and admissible in Illinois courts, according to Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
Indications are that law enforcement is moving in the direction of using a saliva test to test drivers. This is under review by the state’s new DUI Task Force created by the law.
A blood draw and/or a urine sample is required. If a driver has 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter in his blood, there is a presumption of impairment. THC is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. The 5 nanograms is the equivalent of a blood alcohol concentration of .08.
There is a 12-step process to determine if a driver is under the influence of cannabis or other drugs. It requires an officer to be a certified Drug Recognition Expert.
There is only one — an Illinois State Police District 21 trooper — in the area. All troopers are certified Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement, which deals with drugged driving, Trooper Jamie Bufford, the district’s Safety Education Officer, said.
“The state needs to expand the number of available training classes and we need to “train the trainers” locally so we can train in-house across all departments, and possibly save resources by doing so,” Rowe said.
“I’d bet most communities in the state will find themselves without a DRE on New Year’s morning. However, this won’t impact the ability of officers to obtain blood by way of a search warrant for a suspected DUI-drugs. That option is still available to them.”