Montanans are used to messages from law enforcement about drinking and driving, but KGVO News reached out to the Montana Highway Patrol on Thursday specifically about driving under the influence of marijuana.

Now that recreational marijuana is legal, MHP Public Information Officer Sergeant Jay Nelson specifically addressed the subject of driving while high.

“We are seeing and we have been seeing for years, different drugs beyond alcohol involving people that are under the influence and understanding there are different classifications of drugs and that they do different things to the human body,” began Sergeant Nelson. “But the biggest thing to understand with marijuana is although it is legal to buy, it is not legal to get behind the wheel while you're high.”

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Another little known fact is that there are certain limits for drivers who smoke pot as well as for those who drink alcohol.

“In Montana, we have a legal ‘per se’ limit which is five nanograms of active metabolite,” he said. “Without getting into a long chemistry lesson, you cannot be behind the wheel if you feel like you're high on marijuana.”

Regarding driving while under the influence of marijuana, Sergeant Nelson referenced a conversation with a law enforcement officer from Colorado, who shared an unusual effect of marijuana on a driver.

“Recently I talked to a Denver Police Officer where they've been dealing with this for many years, and he said one of the biggest indicators they're finding is people driving with their headlights off at night,” he said. “Because of the amount of THC in the system, which is the drug that makes you high, a driver’s pupils start to dilate and they think its light out when its not.”

There are also similar statutes about having marijuana properly stored inside a vehicle.

“With alcohol, you can't have an open container,” he said. “With marijuana, you can't just have an open container of marijuana sitting next to you. It has to be sealed and in the ‘manufacturer or pharmacies packaging’, and you can't just have it all over your vehicle. So there are a lot of things that we need to pass along to our people in Montana.”

Sergeant Nelson also asked drivers traveling throughout the state to slow down, not drive distracted, and most importantly, keep your seat belts buckled at all times.

“It’s the cheapest life insurance policy you can buy,” he said.

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