Date: March 6, 2024Attorney: Joshua S. Bauchner

In a recent development from Trenton, a proposed bill aims to tighten regulations regarding suspected marijuana impairment while driving. Under this legislation, drivers suspected of being under the influence of marijuana would be required to submit to a blood test upon request by law enforcement officers.

Currently, New Jersey law dictates that drivers implicitly consent to breathalyzer tests for alcohol levels. However, this bill seeks to expand implied consent to include blood testing for marijuana or other drugs.

If passed, police officers would gain the authority to request blood samples without a warrant, according to the bill introduced by Sen. Shirley Turner. Drivers testing positive for 3 nanograms or more of THC—the psychoactive component in cannabis—would be considered under the influence of marijuana.

While some states have established THC limits for drivers, New Jersey lacks such regulations. Nevada and Ohio set the cutoff at 2 nanograms, while Illinois and Washington set it at 5 nanograms. Research suggests that THC levels in the blood peak approximately 15 minutes after marijuana consumption, decreasing over time.

Critics question the reliability of testing methods and potential biases among law enforcement officers. Joshua Bauchner, Partner and Chair of the Cannabis, Hemp, and Psychedelics Practice Group at Mandelbaum Barrett PC, highlights the variability in individuals’ responses to cannabis. He emphasizes the challenge of accurately determining impairment due to THC’s prolonged presence in the body.

Bauchner advocates for a comprehensive approach to assessing impairment and warns against hastily implemented measures. He urges collaboration with experts to develop effective methods, rather than relying on fragmented approaches.

As the debate continues, stakeholders weigh public safety concerns and individual rights in New Jersey’s evolving legal landscape.