In April, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that drivers with traces of marijuana found in the body after a drug test can not receive DUI charges if the existing chemical compounds do not cause impairment.
This overturned the Court of Appeals decision from last year that gave prosecutors the right to charge marijuana users with DUIs without proof that they were physically impaired at the time of arrest.
Attention to this issue was brought to the higher court when an Arizona man was pulled over by police for speeding and unsafe lane changes. He admitted to smoking marijuana the night before and consented to a drug test where marijuana metabolites were later detected.
Chemical compounds left in the man’s body from previous marijuana intake were carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol, or carboxy-THC, a non-impairing metabolite of marijuana that can remain in the body for up to 30 days after marijuana use, the Huffington Post reports.
The man was charged with two counts of DUI for driving while impaired and for driving with drugs in his system although the marijuana metabolites were non-impairing, the Arizona Department of Health Services said.
His case was appealed and the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the Arizona DUI law,A.R.S. 28-1381 that says it is unlawful to operate a vehicle while there is marijuana and its metabolite in the body, is too ambiguous because it does not distinguish between the different marijuana metabolites.
“We do not believe that the legislature contemplated penalizing the presence of a metabolite that is not impairing,” the court said of the DUI offense according to the AZDHS Medical Marijuana Program newsletter.
With states like Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal, and 23 other states including DC that have legalized medicinal marijuana, including Arizona in 2010, legislation concerning DUI charges and how they should be applied to marijuana users are topics worth discussion.
For example, the Arizona Supreme Court ruling affects the 40,000 medical marijuana users in Arizona and out of state visitors who use marijuana by protecting them from wrongful DUI charges, the Arizona Capitol Times said.
Now, medical marijuana users in Arizona can drive without their legal actions being criminalized by law enforcement, however it is always important to understand your DUI laws and rights.
The Arizona DUI defense attorneys at Corso Law Group do everything in their power to protect defendants and advocate for their rights. They have the experience and expertise to deal with DUI charges in Arizona and will fight to get the charges dismissed.