Medical Marijuana Cards and Drivers’ Licenses – A Recipe for Prison in Pennsylvania

by Paul Aaroe

With the surge of medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania and the enactment of the medical marijuana act, another much less talked about thing is surging – medical and non-medical marijuana DUI arrests and convictions. You cannot drive a vehicle in Pennsylvania if you have THC or its metabolite in your system. The metabolite is what the body makes when it breaks down the THC.

See 75 Pa.C.S.A. 3802(d)iii:

“(d) Controlled substances. –An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle under any of the following circumstances:

(1)  There is in the individual’s blood any amount of a:

(i)  Schedule I controlled substance, as defined in the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L.233, No.64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.

(ii)  Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substance, as defined in The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, which has not been medically prescribed for the individual: or

(iii)  metabolite of a substance under subparagraph (i) or (ii).”


In other words:

If you get a medical card and you ingest THC, and you drive with the metabolite in your system, you are committing a criminal offense, even if you’re not high. The metabolite can remain in your blood for over 45 days. In Commonwealth v.  Dabney, 2022 PA Super 82 (May 5,2022), the Superior Court held that the medical marijuana act does not supersede the DUI act. 

“Having found that Section 3802(d)(1)(i) applies to all marijuana, even medical marijuana, we likewise conclude that Section 3802(d)(1)(iii) applies to metabolites of all marijuana, including medical marijuana. First, subparagraph (iii) references subparagraph (i), which has no exception for medical marijuana. Second, unlike in Glenn, 233 A.3d at 846, it is illegal to drive with the active substance of marijuana in one’s blood. Therefore, it is not absurd or unreasonable that it is also illegal to drive with a metabolite of that substance in one’s blood. Because Dabney drove with marijuana in his blood, and because all marijuana, including medical marijuana, remains a Schedule I controlled substance for purposes not prohibited by the MMA, we hold that Dabney could be charged and prosecuted under Section 3802(d)(1)(i) and (iii).” Id. 

It was this writer’s opinion when the legislature enacted the medical marijuana act, they should have done one of two things. Either they should have taken peoples drivers licenses when issuing a medical marijuana card, or they should have decriminalized driving with just the metabolite in the system, without any signs of impairment. They did not. Therefore, if you are an out-of-state, legal recreational marijuana user, or a legal Pennsylvania medical marijuana user with a medical card, if you drive in Pennsylvania, you are committing a criminal offense with the following MINIMUM jail penalties:

1st offense- 72 hours to 6 months

2nd offense- 90 days to 5 years

3rd offense- 1 year to 7 years (felony 3) 

4th offense- 1 year to 10 years (felony 2)


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