Legal pot use in other states can cause issues in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana residents who smoke marijuana legally in states that allow it could still face repercussions once they return home because of the way state laws are worded, experts say.

Indiana’s law regarding operating a vehicle while intoxicated covers marijuana but doesn’t require prosecutors to prove the driver was high to get a conviction. They only have to show the person had a trace of marijuana in his or her system.

And employers can order random drug tests and fire workers who test positive for marijuana, a trace of which can remain in one’s system weeks after the buzz has faded.

“Say you go out to Colorado for a ski trip and legally smoke some marijuana while you’re there. When you come back, you are going to be driving illegally for a couple of weeks,” Indianapolis attorney John Tompkins told The Indianapolis Star. “You can be charged and convicted, even if you were not impaired.”

Nearly two dozen states have legalized marijuana use in some form. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, along with the District of Columbia, allow recreational use of the drug.

Tompkins said that is “legally concerning” for people who are trying to stay within the law by smoking marijuana only where it’s legal to do so.

Some states, including Colorado and Washington, have established thresholds for marijuana intoxication that are similar to those for driving with alcohol in your system.

But Indiana law says any amount of marijuana in the driver’s blood or urine is enough to prove the operating while intoxicated charge. That includes metabolites, which are the residue left as the drug breaks down. Those traces can be found for up to a month, said Curtis Graves, staff attorney with Mountain States Employers Council, a Denver, Colo.-based human relations and employment law advisory group.

Graves said the presence of metabolites can also be used to fire someone.

A lot can depend on the type of test used, Graves noted. Traces of marijuana can show up in blood and urine tests for up to a month or longer, while an oral fluid swab test “cuts it back drastically to a couple of days,” he said.

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