In the State of Arizona, under Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 28-1381, it is illegal to operate a vehicle or be in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis, or having cannabis metabolites in your system. The problem with having cannabis metabolites in your system is that they can be present in your body for much longer than that which cannabis can have any effect in the body. The amount of time that your body retains traces of cannabis metabolites depends on a myriad of factors. Unfortunately, there are no accurate answers to exactly how long. It has been reported that cannabis metabolites have been detected up to a month after use and sometimes even longer.
Let’s say you go on a Skiing trip to Colorado and decide to partake in local festivities where cannabis is being consumed. Cannabis being legal in Colorado, you would have every right to not pass on the grass and decide that now is a perfect time to let your inner hippie fly. You have your fun and return home to Arizona. A week or two later you are involved in a car accident that may or may not be your fault. If it is decided that blood will be drawn (under implied consent you must say yes) to see if you are under the influence of any drugs, you could end up spending time in jail and have fines of at least $1,250. Additional penalties may include required participation in a drug treatment program, license suspension, community service, probation for up to five years, or being ordered to attach an ignition interlock device to the driver’s vehicle. Id. §§ 28-1381 (I)-(J) – all because you decided to legally ingest a relatively harmless drug on your own leisure time in a state where marijuana is entirely legal and accepted for recreational use. This may sound absurd, but this is the current law. If there happened to be a child under the age of 15 in the car, you would be facing much harsher penalties.
Having a medical marijuana card in Arizona doesn’t necessarily make you immune to any of the laws stated in Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 28-1381. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) states that licensed medical marijuana users cannot be prosecuted for marijuana use if they stay within the parameters of the statute. These parameters state that medical marijuana card holders may not be prosecuted for driving with cannabis metabolites in their system if “prescribed” by a medical practitioner. The problem is that medical marijuana cannot be prescribed, it can only be “recommended” by a licensed physician. This discrepancy is ultimately up to the decisions of the court to decide the outcome of the case. The defendant must prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the level of metabolites was at a level that no longer caused impairment. However, there is no commonly accepted threshold for identifying how much metabolites causes impairment. The burden is on you and your representation to prove that you were not impaired.
There is no question that driving while under the influence of marijuana is unsafe and irresponsible. However, the marijuana DUI laws need to reflect an evidence-based reasoning behind the prosecution of medical and non-medical users alike. The current system for determining active metabolites is flawed and needs to be rewritten in a way that upholds justice and impartiality.
Getting Legal Help
If you find yourself in a situation where you have been charged with a marijuana-related offence, you may be entitled to an affirmative defense if the amount of THC in your system is insufficient to cause impairment. Without this defense, you face the likelihood of jail time, large fines, and other consequences that can be detrimental to your well-being and family’s welfare. That is why it is important you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal and DUI defense attorney who can help you understand how your case will be handled by the prosecutor and judges and whether this affirmative defense is available to you. Jess Lorona of Lorona Mead, PLC is an Arizona criminal and DUI defense attorney with over 33 years of experience to help you in your time of need. Call Jess Lorona today for a free consultation. 602-385-6825.