Can You Get Arrested For Being High On Weed?
In the United State’s Cannabis laws are being relaxed and weed is now part of the mainstream, US, society. (I.E. Martha Stewart and Snoop Dog being friends) As a result, cannabis laws can be confusing. And, I know this is shocking to hear, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet.
So, I felt it would be helpful to have this article on whether or not you can get in trouble for being high even when you do not have possession of any illegal drug. This article will answer that question as best as it can by using known, reliable resources, like Find Law.
For clarification, this article deals with being arrested for being high in public. It does not deal with someone being put back in jail for failing a drug test, or for being under suspicion of being under the influence, while they are on probation.
This blog is for the cannabis community, I will be referring primarily to cannabis. However, this information deals with getting high on any psychoactive substances, and not just weed. This would include a controlled substance, (I.E. Prescription Drugs) and any other illegal drug .
DISCLAIMER – This is not legal advice. The information is from reputable sources. However, every case is different. So, if you have any questions consult a local life law firm and hire a criminal defense attorney.
Every States Laws Are Different
States may have similar statutes. However, the application of the law, depending upon where you get arrested may differ.
The strictness or leniency on what is considered to be a disturbance depends upon the location of where you are arrested, who you are, cultural norms, case law, law enforcement, and whether or not you offended the wrong person. Also, a criminal charge depends on who is being arrested. For example, if you have a substantial criminal record the court or a police officer or will likely be more to charge you. Additionally, whether or not recreational marijuana is legal where you are arrested can also be a factor.
Only Take a Lawyer’s Legal Advice
Just because your best friend did X in Portland Oregon, or Denver, Colorado, and did not get arrested it does not mean that you will be able to do X while on vacation in Miami Florida, and also not get arrested. The lesson to learn is that you need to hire a local attorney if you are arrested for any crime.
United States Federal Drug Laws
Both recreational and medical marijuana is classified in the United States as a schedule 1 drug, which means that per the US government, it serves no medical purposes and has a high likelihood of abuse. This means that even though medical cannabis may be legal in your state, it is still illegal under federal law, and federal laws overrule state laws.
Therefore, technically, the federal government does not have to follow any state cannabis law. So, as an example, if even if weed is legal where you live, you still need to be careful if are wanting to bring cannabis with you on a camping trip to a national park.
The DEA or other federal agencies, even where marijuana is legalized, also can arrest and prosecute dispensaries, and cannabis users because marijuana is illegal under federal United States law. This will likely not happen now. But, it did happen in the 90s., in California.
Is Being High Illegal?
Public Intoxication, Disturbing The Peace, and Impaired Driving
Is not illegal to be high In the United States. You can though, under certain circumstances, get arrested and be convicted of a crime if you are found to be high in public. I.E., You can get arrested if they charge you for either public intoxication, disturbing the peace, or impaired driving.
For clarification, you are not technically being arrested for being under the influence of drugs on any of these offenses. You are though being arrested for what you did because of your actions while you are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any other illegal drug. The penalties for public intoxication and disturbing the peace can result in jail time and a hefty fine.
To be convicted of public intoxication offense you must be convicted of the following
● Be arrested and found to be high in public, under the influence of street drugs, controlled substances, or simply drunk.
● Found to have disturbed the general public or cause some type of harm
Disturbing The Peace
Disturbing the peace is similar to public intoxication except that, for conviction, you do not have to be high.
What is Considered to Be A Disturbance?
A first glance, a disturbance is quite vague as the definition is different from one person to another. Also, free speech is taken into account. As an example, individuals could find a Donald Trump sign or a Joe Biden sign offensive or disturbing. But, because of freedom of speech, both signs are allowed, on your property.
As a result, laws have been designed to specifically define what exactly is considered to be a disturbance. For example, in Nevada disturbing the peace is defined below:
NRS 203.010 Breach of the peace. Every person who shall maliciously and willfully disturb the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person or family by loud or unusual noises, or by tumultuous and offensive conduct, threatening, traducing, quarreling, challenging to fight, or fighting, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Granted, some of the above words in the statute are vague. For example, someone’s offensive conduct could be considered to another one “good time.” Also, threats can be considered different from one individual to another. In the absence of more defined laws, Caselaw (previous case decisions by the court) is used to help define what is and what is not considered to be a disturbance.
The following are a few examples from Find Law, that states what has been generally considered to mean disturbance. Also, each of these actions must happen in the public.
- Starting a fight
- Swearing or shouting with the intention of causing a violent
- Outburst causing a commotion
- Knocking on a hotel door with the sole purpose of waking them up and otherwise disturbing them
- Playing music too loud that disturbs your neighbors
Click Here, for the full list
Disturbing the peace and public intoxication is generally the same. However, disturbing someone while you are high in public does not require you to have wanted to intentionally want to cause a disturbance. For example, you could get in trouble for public intoxication if you are stoned and repeatedly knock on the wrong hotel door. Another example is that you get high and pass out in public.
Drug Impaired Driving
I’m only familiar with Nevada law. But, Nevada DUI law, for alcohol, is separate from marijuana. In Nevada, the penalties for marijuana DUI conviction though are the same as if you were arrested for drunk driving. Also, drugged driving, in almost all states, will at least get you in the same trouble as if you are driving drunk.
Please note, as it is in disturbing the peace or public intoxication, you are not being arrested for being high; you are being arrested for what you are doing while you are under the influence of marijuana.
What’s especially harsh though with a so-called, marijuana DUI is that you can be arrested for impaired driving even if you are not intoxicated. The reason is that at least under Nevada law, even if you are sober, you can still be convicted for a DUI if your blood contains certain levels of THC.
Cannabis, for most users, is a mellow drug and, unlike alcohol, stoners are not prone to violence. For example, in my personal experience, I never heard of a cannabis user punching a plate glass window because someone owed him $2. I have seen a drunk though do so. So, not causing a disturbance should be an issue for most cannabis smokers.
My non-legal advice is that you should be OK if you take it easy when you are smoking weed, getting drunk, or doing any type of controlled substance when you are high in public. And, stay home, if you want to get “melting in the couch” high.
Summary-In the United States, being high is not illegal. So, you cannot technically be arrested for being high on marijuana or other legal or illegal substances. You can however be jailed if you are found to be high in public. A Disturbance is vague as what is a disturbance in one area may not be considered to be a disturbance in another part of the United States.