Why is Philly’s D.A. not Prosecuting Cannabis DUIs?

Back in May, Philadelphia’s District Attorney Larry Krasner announced his office would no longer prosecute cannabis DUIs. He went so far as to call the current laws in the state “dumb” and that he wanted to take a more “commonsense approach” to the matter. At first, people were surprised and did not understand his reasoning for allowing people to drive while high. In fact, he is not, and after listening to his explanation, many agree that it does make a lot of sense.

Krasner explained that THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes a person high, can remain in the body for up to 30 days. That means if someone is pulled over, and THC is detected in their system because they consumed marijuana two weeks ago, they can face cannabis DUI charges. However,they are not high and their driving ability was not affected by their behavior from several weeks ago.

“The choice not to prosecute cannabis DUIs does make a lot of sense,” says David Clark of Price Benowitz. “Until there is a way to determine that someone is actually high, and currently under the psychoactive effects of marijuana, a lot of innocent people could go to jail, lose their license, or pay high fines for consumption that happened some time ago.”

Making that determination is something that is important to Krasner, as well. He stated in his announcement that unless it is established, in a scientific manner, that someone had psychoactive amounts of cannabis in their system, he will not prosecute someone pulled over for a cannabis DUI. There currently is no standard that can indicate whether the THC in a person’s system has remaining psychoactive properties or not.

While making his argument, he also pointed to the many people in the state that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. These individuals must take their medicine more than once every month or two. Prosecuting them for having it in their system when they got behind the wheel means that essentially, they have to choose between taking the medication they need, or driving. When viewed in this manner, the current process for prosecuting cannabis DUIs makes even less sense.

Krasner made his announcement in response to John T. Adams, the Berks County District Attorney, that was arguing against legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. While lawmakers are getting closer to this type of legislation, cannabis for recreational purposes still remains illegal in Pennsylvania. The state legalized medicinal marijuana in 2016.