Despite the more than 35,000 people in Arizona holding medical marijuana cards, a Court of Appeals has decided to uphold the right of authorities to prosecute pot smokers in Arizona for driving under the influence even when there is no evidence that they are actually high. Essentially, this means a driver doesn’t have to actually be impaired to get prosecuted for DUI. As long as there is evidence of marijuana in your system, you can get a DUI in Arizona.
The emphasis is being placed on how the chemical compounds in marijuana show up in blood and urine tests after one smokes pot. One chemical compound causes drivers to be impaired; another is a chemical that stays in people’s systems for weeks after they’ve smoked marijuana but doesn’t affect impairment.
The ruling overturns a decision by a lower court judge who said it didn’t make sense to prosecute a person with no evidence they’re under the influence. The same judge cited the proliferation of states easing their marijuana laws, but the Court of Appeals ruling dismissed that by saying Arizona’s medical marijuana law is irrelevant regarding DUI.
The Court of Appeals said the Legislature adopted the decades-old comprehensive DUI law to protect public safety, so a provision on prohibited substances and their resulting chemical compounds should be interpreted broadly to include inactive compounds as well as active ones.
The case stems from a 2010 traffic stop in Maricopa County. The motorist’s blood test revealed only a chemical compound that is found in the blood after another compound produced from ingesting marijuana breaks down.
According to testimony by a prosecution criminalist, the compound found in the
man’s blood doesn’t impair the ability to drive but can remain detectable for four weeks.
The state’s medical marijuana law gives cardholders immunity from DUI convictions based solely on the presence of metabolites in a person’s system that don’t appear to be enough to cause impairment.
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