• Eli Hunt

Can You Legally Drive While Using Medical Marijuana in Virginia?


Are Medical Marijuana Patients Protected While Driving in Virginia?

Marijuana legalization has been a boon for those with medical marijuana cards in Virginia, providing relief from symptoms associated with a variety of medical conditions including chronic pain, cancer and PTSD. One factor complicating the use of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth relates to how and when you can safely operate a vehicle when using medical marijuana.


Good news first— medical marijuana users can safely and legally operate a vehicle in Virginia with few issues. By following a few tips, Virginians can continue to enjoy their medical marijuana cards and access to all the great products that go along with it without dinging their driving record!


The Virginia Rule Book on Driving and Medical Marijuana

Let’s take a look at the rules first. According to the Virginia branch of Norml, Virginia statutes related to driving state that it is unlawful for anyone in Virginia to operate a motor vehicle while they are “under the influence of marijuana to a degree which impairs [their] ability to drive or operate the motor vehicle safely.”


This language may seem straightforward at first glance, but it leaves a good deal up to interpretation. To begin, what defines impaired ability in the context of medical marijuana and driving in Virginia?


Unfortunately, there are no hard numbers offered up by the state. Virginia has not established a physical limit for THC blood content in relation to impaired driving.


Most of us know about the alcohol blood content limit in the Commonwealth— a Virginia driver is considered to be in violation of the law if they are driving with a blood alcohol content that is above 0.08 percent. What’s more, even if a driver’s BAC is below this limit, a police officer can still find them impaired and in violation of the law if other signs of impairment are evident.


There are also clear numbers on the books related to other drugs and impaired driving, including methamphetamines, cocaine, PCP, and MDMA. Why, then, the absence of cannabis on this list?


THC and Impairment

This is where things get interesting. It turns out that there is no established correlation between high THC levels in the blood and impairment, according to several studies. As such, it is very hard for regional authorities to define exactly what blood content generally defines “impaired driving.“ This lack of correlation has even been used in Virginia to defend drivers charged with driving while allegedly impaired by cannabis.


What’s more, THC can remain in the bloodstream for weeks, meaning that a driver may have levels of THC apparent in their blood but may be long past experiencing the immediate effects of THC. There has even been research done at the federal level by the NTSB that indicates that drivers affected by cannabis are safer than those affected by alcohol.


All of this has left things very undefined for drivers and police alike. In Fairfax County, one of the biggest and most influential counties in the Commonwealth, the DWI Enforcement Squad has publicly stated that they are on the lookout for drivers operating a vehicle while “high.” What can drivers do in response to keep themselves safe? Fortunately, there are a number of easy steps medical marijuana users can take to feel safe driving in Virginia.


Steps to Take to Drive Safely When Using Medical Marijuana

So what can medical marijuana users do to stay safe when driving?


1. Number one, make sure to check in with yourself. This is very much like the steps you would take to gauge whether or not you are sober after meeting friends for a drink. Learn to note your behaviors when using medical marijuana and establish a baseline for safe conduct and behavior. As a general guideline, research done at NIH suggests that waiting 8 hours to drive after feeling ‘high’ from medical marijuana is a safe bet. The study also recommends that patients that use medical marijuana pay special attention to the cumulative effects of alcohol taken in tandem with medical marijuana.


2. Next, obey all traffic laws and don’t avoid checkpoints and stops. If you are driving safely and not under the immediate influence of a ‘high’ from THC, you can feel confident driving your car or truck. Don’t worry if you smell like medical marijuana. Smelling cannabis in a vehicle does not give a police officer probable cause to search a vehicle. If you believe that you smell like cannabis but are operating your vehicle safely, do not avoid a stop or checkpoint. If a police officer believes you are driving erratically in order to avoid a checkpoint or stop, you may create a problem where you did not have one in the first place.

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3. Use medical marijuana products that are less likely to cause impairment. Many low THC products available in Virginia dispensaries are great options if you want to ensure that you are at as little risk of impairment as possible. You can find edibles, tinctures and even vape products that have a higher CBD concentration and a lower THC concentration, and topicals are a great way to experience targeted pain relief with little to no impairment.


Additionally, don’t drive immediately after starting a new product. If you are not sure how a specific medical marijuana brand or format will affect you, start low, go slow, and wait until you’ve had some experience with the product before driving.


4. Finally, keep your medical marijuana secured and stored away. This is a very serious one. Virginia law states that any “open container” of marijuana in a motor vehicle creates the presumption that you are actually driving under the influence. Of course, as with many of the Virginia statutes related to medical marijuana and driving, what defines an “open container” is still a bit unclear. To be safe, if you have to travel with your medical marijuana make sure that it is stored in a secure and closed container and keep it tucked away in a bag or in your glove box.


Get Your VA Marijuana Card Now!

Medical marijuana is creating a better Virginia for many of us. Virginians who want to use a medical marijuana card to enjoy relief from symptoms related to a wide range of conditions don't need to worry that they can't drive confidently in the Commonwealth.

The cannabis doctors and patient support staff at Virginia Marijuana Card can answer all the questions you may have about medical marijuana. We’ll take the time to answer all your questions, and follow-up appointments are free for the entire 12 months that your medical card is valid through us. Schedule an appointment with an online medical marijuana doctor today to start gaining access to safe, legal cannabis products, including tinctures, flower, concentrates and more.


Doctors Who Care.

Relief You Can Trust.

At Virginia Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness

safely and conveniently through increased access to MMJ. Our focus on

education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by

providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.


Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!


Check out Virginia Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.


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Check out Virginia Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.


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