NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Medical marijuana has been legal in Louisiana for almost a week, but if you think about driving while using it, you might want to think again: Insurance companies and many employers still have strict policies regarding marijuana use, as do law enforcement.
Louisiana State Police spokesman and trooper Monroe Dillon said while the treatment is legal, driving under the influence of it is not.
“If they think they’re okay to drive, think again," Dillon said. “Impaired by marijuana is the same as being under the influence of alcohol.”
The law applies especially to people who drive a vehicle or operate heavy equipment while at work. Most insurance companies won’t cover such an accident, and many employers have policies requiring offenders to be fired, according to FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti.
“If you have a job that affects people’s safety, like an airline pilot, or crane operator, those are jobs that an employer might say sorry you can’t use medical marijuana and work for me,” Raspanti said.
Dillon said even trace amounts of marijuana -- whether legal or illegal -- can get you in trouble. And, it could remain in your system for up to 90 days.
And, the state’s new Katie Bug Law requires a blood test of anybody involved in a serious accident, which could make marijuana users more vulnerable to an elevated charge.
“If any type of impairment is suspected, and that test comes back positive for the presence of marijuana, that person can be charged with vehicular negligent injury or vehicular homicide,” Dillon said.
Raspanti said patients legally using medical marijuana should carry proof of their prescriptions with them.
“If you have the bottle full of marijuana that’s prescribed, that could help you later possibly," Raspanti said. “But if you have the marijuana, and don’t have the bottle with you, you will more surely be arrested. So, have the prescription bottle with you if you’re travelling around.”
But, Dillon said the best advice is simple: Don’t use and drive.
“If they are found to be under the influence of that marijuana, tests will be administered and they will be arrested,” Dillon said.
The U.S. Department of Justice has also advised the U.S. Transportation secretary that there’s no exemption for medical marijuana use. According to Department of Transportation’s website, the secretary of transportation states: “Medical review options will not verify a drug test as negative, based on information that a physician recommended that the employee use medical marijuana.”