In Iowa, the driving while intoxicated law makes it illegal to drive while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. When it comes to driving drunk cases, the police use breath, urine, or blood tests to discover the person’s blood alcohol concentration while they were driving the vehicle. Because marijuana is considered to be an illegal drug in the state of Iowa, it begs the question of if is there a test to determine the amount of marijuana toxicity in a person’s blood?
When attempting to find our answer, it’s important to keep in mind that tests for alcohol or drugs in a person’s blood don’t directly determine the amount of the substances the person ingested or inhaled. What the tests actually measure is the amount of byproducts, or the metabolites, that remain when the alcohol or drugs are processed by the body.
Alcohol is a substance that is processed rather quickly by the body, therefore it enters the bloodstream faster. This fast processing or metabolizing time makes breath and other testing methods accurate impairment assessments. On the other hand, the body takes longer to metabolize marijuana. As a result, marijuana metabolites can be found in the bloodstream for hours, days, or even weeks. This also makes testing a little more difficult as it stays in the body long after the user was actually impaired by the substance. However, Iowa law doesn’t process or see the cases differently.
In the State of Iowa, there is a zero tolerance for operating under the influence of illegal drugs. If it is determined that a person has any amount of marijuana metabolites in their system they can face an OWI charge. It is important to note that there is no requirement for proof of the actual impairment.
There is a statute in Iowa that does also require that the state Department of Public Safety apply the national standards for finding out if a driver has detectable levels of an illegal drug in their bloodstream. As of right now, the only standard is for a specific metabolite found in a person’s urine. This makes it possible for a person being charged with OWI to use a range of defenses. Such defenses include the legality of the traffic stop, the accuracy of the testing equipment, as well as others.
In short, because marijuana is metabolized or processed by the body differently than alcohol, and because testing methods only look for one specific byproduct in the blood, testing for marijuana use is different than testing for alcohol.