The state of Connecticut recently changed their marijuana laws. Recreational marijuana is now legal in Connecticut. These changes also mean changes to marijuana DUI laws and motor vehicle stops related to marijuana. You can learn more about the new laws which took effect in Connecticut July 1st, 2021, on this page.
Police Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause to Stop a Vehicle
Under the new marijuana bill, the following can no longer be used as reasons to stop or search a motor vehicle or a person in Connecticut:
- The suspected/real possession of up to five ounces of cannabis.
- The presence of up to $500 in cash near marijuana.
- The smell of marijuana.
However, while the new law says that a police officer cannot stop a vehicle or a person based on the smell of marijuana, it says nothing about the smell of burned marijuana. We suspect that the police may use this as a reason to stop or search a vehicle in the future. In addition, police officers can still conduct impairment tests after stopping a vehicle if they believe that a person was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana or any other drug.
Just because marijuana is legal does not mean that driving while impaired by marijuana is acceptable. Driving under the influence of marijuana is still a crime in Connecticut and could result in a drug DUI charge.
However, keep in mind that according to the new bill, evidence discovered in violation of these new provisions will not be admissible in court. Because of this, it is a good idea to consult a DUI lawyer or motor vehicle violations lawyer to determine if the police broke the new laws when stopping your vehicle or charging you with a drug DUI.
Marijuana Use in Motor Vehicles
Also effective as of July 1st, 2021 is an element of this bill that addresses the use of marijuana in motor vehicles. Smoking or injecting cannabis as the driver of a motor vehicle is a crime. It will now become a Class C misdemeanor, and doing this as a passenger is a Class D misdemeanor. Class C misdemeanors carry penalties such as a prison term of up to three months and a fine of up to $500. A Class D misdemeanor has penalties of 30 days in prison and a fine of up to $250. Keep in mind that the bill refers to consuming marijuana in a motor vehicle that is being operated in a parking area of 10 or more cars, on a public highway, on a private road with a speed limit set by the state, on a specially chartered road, or on school property.
In addition, a police officer can’t pull someone over based solely on the violations listed here. A person also cannot be convicted of possession of a controlled substance and ingesting cannabis for the same incident. However, a person can be charged with these offenses and a drug DUI.
The marijuana laws in Connecticut may continue to change in the months and years to come. There is still a lot that is ambivalent according to the new laws which will have to be clarified in the future. It can be difficult to keep up with all of these changes and make sure that you are following the law. If you have any questions about the current marijuana laws and the future of cannabis in Connecticut, contact the office. We are happy to clarify these changes for you. If you face a drug DUI, or you have another cannabis and motor vehicle issue, feel free to reach out to us for help.