Cannabidiol (CBD) has become quite popular as a remedy for a plethora of ailments and medical conditions. CBD products are generally over-the-counter, so you don't need a prescription or medical clearance card to buy or use them. CBD products are widely available in grocery stores, pharmacies, and the like.
However, many people have concerns about CBD because it's derived from marijuana plants. More specifically, some people question whether using CBD could impair your ability to drive safely or lead to a DUI arrest. After all, you can get a DUI for driving while under the influence of marijuana. Is driving after using CBD any different?
This article covers some of the basics about the legalities and effects of CDB use and why using CBD products generally can't result in a DUI conviction.
The legalities of CBD depend on both federal and state laws. Although federal law applies to the entire country, states are generally free to enact laws that are stricter than their federal counterparts are.
Historically, any product containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was designated as an illegal controlled substance under federal law. But in 2018, the federal government removed low-cannabis derivatives from the list of illegal controlled substances. In doing so, the federal government generally legalized CBD products containing a THC concentration of less than .3%.
Although CBD products containing less than .3% are generally legal under federal law, some states have laws that still make CBD products (that would be legal by federal standards) illegal.
Technically, all states permit the use and sale of CBD in some form. In fact, many states—especially those with legalized recreational marijuana—have very few limitations on the sale and use of CBD. However, other states have CBD laws on the books that are stricter than federal law. For example, in Idaho, a material compound with any quantity of THC is considered an illegal controlled substance, which prohibits most CDB products.
So, in order to determine whether you can legally buy and use CBD, it's important to check the laws of your state.
All states have DUI laws that prohibit driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. To get a DUI conviction, the prosecutor generally must prove the driver was impaired (drunk or high) or had an unlawful concentration of alcohol or drugs in his or her system.
In other words, prosecutors can prove a DUI charge with evidence of actual impairment (such as bloodshot eyes, lack of normal coordination, and slurred speech) or chemical test results (normally, of the driver's blood, breath, or urine) that show an illegal amount of drugs or alcohol.
The level of impairment that a prosecutor must prove to get a DUI conviction varies by state. However, in many states, the prosecution must show that the ingested substances affected the driver's ability to operate a vehicle safely. In other words, prosecutors generally need to prove that drugs or alcohol had a substantial effect on the driver.
However, CBD—with a THC concentration of less than .3%—shouldn't cause noticeable impairment or the user to get high. So it's pretty unlikely that normal CBD use could lead to an impairment DUI conviction.
Some states have "per se DUI" laws that prohibit driving with a certain concentration of THC in your blood or urine. For example, some states set the limit at two or five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. But due to the low concentration of THC in CBD, a person would have to consume an exorbitant amount of CBD to reach the legal limits specified by these state laws.
However, there are a few states (like Utah) that prohibit motorists from driving with any amount of controlled substance or metabolite in their bodies. As most CBD contains a small amount of THC, it's theoretically possible (though probably still unlikely) for a person to be convicted of a DUI based on CBD use in one of these states.
The discussions in this article assume that the THC concentrations in CBD products are in fact lower than .3%. Unfortunately, CBD product labels that specify the THC concentration aren't always accurate.
Studies have shown that many CBD products labeled as only containing .3% THC did in fact contain much higher concentrations. However, it's difficult to know whether the inaccuracies are substantial enough to make a significant difference with impairment or the concentration of THC in a driver's body.