Next week, Ohioans will vote on Issue 3: a state constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medicinal and personal use*. If marijuana use is legalized in Ohio, more drivers will face charges of operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana. Ohio’s OVI-marijuana laws raise many questions: How long does a marijuana high last? Does marijuana impair driving ability? Do blood and urine test results correlate with impaired driving ability? Are Ohio’s OVI-marijuana laws Constitutional? This article addresses the first question by discussing the duration of marijuana effects.
The psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is what makes a person ‘high’. Whether smoked or eaten, when THC enters the body, it is broken down (metabolized) quickly, either in lungs or stomach. When this metabolism occurs, metabolites are produced. A metabolite is any substance produced during metabolism: what remains after a drug is ‘broken down’.
As marijuana is metabolized when it enters the body, it is laughable that Ohio law prohibits operating a vehicle with a prohibited concentration of “marihuana”. There will never be Ohio OVI cases with blood or urine tests showing a concentration of “marihuana” because blood and urine tests do not identify or measure “marihuana”. Instead, they identify and measure THC metabolites.