Is It Illegal to Be High?

Is It Illegal to Be High?

Yes, it is illegal to be high.

Here’s the situation — you and your buddies were sitting around listening to The Dark Side of the Moon and enjoying a joint or two. The night’s over and it is time to head home. On the way back to your house, you get pulled over for speeding. You know you don’t have anything illegal on you, and you haven’t been drinking, but still you gotta wonder — can the cop bust you simply for being high?

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Let’s set aside the issue of driving under the influence of marijuana for just a moment and talk about the legality of being high.

Intoxication can be difficult to prove. When talking about alcohol intoxication, cops have several methods for determining your level of drunkenness, from field sobriety tests to breathalyzers to blood tests back at the police substation. With marijuana there is no really effective way to prove in a court of law that you were under the influence.

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The short answer is Yes — it is illegal to be “under the influence of marijuana”, especially when you’re driving The problem lies with the officer’s ability to take stock of your level of intoxication.

Detecting Marijuana Intoxication

Is It Illegal to Be High?If the police really want to know if you’re under the influence of marijuana, the only true test is a blood test. There’s no “marijuana breathalyzer” (though one is being developed in California as I write this) so if a cop wants to bring you into the station, that officer will have to have good cause to do so.

A field sobriety test is fairly effective for detection of marijuana intoxication. Depending on the individual (and depending on how high they are) a typical field sobriety test could be tough. Walking a straight line, speaking clearly, etc — marijuana can make all those tasks difficult.

But for an officer to perform a field sobriety test on an individual who is high on marijuana there must be mitigating circumstances. Either you’ve been involved in an accident (which automatically triggers such a test) or you smell so much like marijuana that the officer can’t help but test. If you don’t appear too high and if you haven’t caused too much of a problem in your vehicle such as an accident or something, you probably won’t be tested.

Illegal High

Another sticking point for cops is that they usually have to see evidence on marijuana use in order to arrest you for it. If a cop finds marijuana, paraphernalia, or sees you smoking marijuana, then you will most certainly be arrested and given any drug test they can think of to prove your guilt.

But if you’re walking down the street, causing no trouble and not in possession of any drugs, you could possibly walk right up to a cop and say, “I’m high on marijuana.”

And they probably won’t do anything. If you aren’t driving or behaving criminally, a simple statement to a cop that you are intoxicated is usually not enough to warrant an arrest. On the other hand, don’t test this theory in real life. It’s always a bad idea to admit to any kind of illegal activity to a police officer.

The basic facts are as follows — while it is illegal to be high and operate a car, and while it is illegal to possess, smoke, or sell marijuana, it can be difficult to prove intoxication and therefore most of the time you can get away with.

Our advice is to obey allĀ  the laws in your jurisidction.

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This article is part of a series we’re doing on “Is It Illegal?” The other posts in this series are: