HELENA — With the start of recreational marijuana sales on January 1, 2022, in Montana, it has never been more accessible to residents and visitors of Big Sky Country.
Along with the increased availability, comes increased concerns over people driving while under the influence of cannabis.
"The State of Montana, a DUI is a DUI, whether you are impaired by alcohol or marijuana - or any other drug for that matter," said Lieutenant Jayson Zander of the Helena Police Department.
If you are pulled over, and the officer feels that you are driving under the influence of marijuana or any other substance, an officer specializing in drug recognition will come to the scene.
Additionally, Zander says, "Each drug belongs to one of the seven drug categories, and there are specific signs and symptoms associated this each drug, and these officers will specialize training can determine. One whether you are impaired and two what drug category you are impaired by."
When a motorist is issued a driver's license at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a section is signed agreeing to comply with a sobriety test.
"The comply consent advisory, and what that means is that when you sign for your driver's license, it is implied that you will consent to test for drugs or alcohol in your system," Zander said.
Driving while being high will be treated just like driving under the influence of alcohol, and just like alcohol, there is a legal limit.
"If you have five nanograms of THC in the blood, it is much like the same as having .08 alcohol content; it falls under the same code the same law," explained Zander
In the state, the first offense of driving under the influence will result in jail time from 24 hours to six months. And a fine of $600 to $1,000.
A fourth offense for driving under the influence could result in a felony charge which would include prison time, serving 13 months to 5-years, and a fine of $5,000 to $10,000.
Anyone has the right to refuse a breath or blood test is suspected of driving under the influence. However, refusal will result in the officer submitting the individual's driver’s license to the DMV where it will be revoked for up to a year for the first refusal. A person is unlawful to drive without a valid driver’s license. A refusal also doesn’t mean county prosecutors won’t bring a DUI charge based upon other evidence collected during an officer’s investigation.