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Santa Maria man nabbed in marijuana-related DUI crash

Santa Maria police are investigating a DUI crash – but this crash is a little different than most.

By now most of us know recreational marijuana was passed last month – and the state has come out reminding people that you can still get a DUI on the drug. Well that’s exactly what happened this morning in Santa Maria.

“It’s scary,” Michelle Francisco said, who lives near the crash.

“Driving stoned” – that’s what the driver of this car is accused of doing before crashing his car into a round-about.

“They come through our street like it’s a drag race,” Francisco said.

This marijuana-related DUI accident happened early Thursday morning, just a handful of houses down from Michelle Francisco’s home off of Railroad Avenue and Hidden Pines Way.

“It could’ve been me driving my daughters to the bus this morning and got side swiped and one of us could’ve died,” Francisco said.

19-year-old Christopher Rico of Santa Maria was arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. Police say he then ran off but was found and also charged with Hit and Run.

“It’s just like drinking and driving, you don’t want to set an example to your kids to drink and drive,” Francisco said.

Police are reminding drivers that just because marijuana is legal now, it doesn’t mean you can get behind the wheel.

“Your reaction time is slowed.. your thought process is slowed.. and anything that does that is obviously going to inhibit driving,” Santa Maria Police Officer Paul Van Meel said.

Police say to plan ahead just like alcohol, have a sober driver – or use a cab or an Uber.

“I’ve never talked to a person who was involved in a collision that took a life who thought that was going to be the likely result,” Van Meel said.

Police say they do field sobriety tests, just like alcohol and test the blood for marijuana content. Those blood tests can take some time to process though.

“In this case, there was enough there the officer had probable cause, formed the opinion that he was under the influence of marijuana and was impaired, too impaired to drive, so he was arrested for DUI,” Van Meel said.

“You’re either going to kill yourself or somebody else or both,” Francisco said.

Marijuana DUI’s are treated just like alcohol DUI’s. You can lose your driver’s license and do jail time.

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