In the News: No DUI Changes for Arizona Medical Marijuana Users
Arizona is just one of 23 states that have passed laws allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, such as the relief of chronic pain and the management of symptoms during chemotherapy. Patients must meet eligibility criteria and have their physician’s approval, and then they must apply for an ID card that allows them to purchase and possess the marijuana legally.
While the law distinguishes between the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, many of the effects the drug has can be the same. What has been of particular note to lawmakers is how the drug affects users when they are driving. After a drawn-out battle, the Arizona Supreme Court recently declared that there are no differences. Those who take marijuana for medicinal purposes and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle can be charged with driving under the influence, just the same as those who take marijuana recreationally and then drive.
Previous State Law
In the past, Arizona state law allowed for the prosecution of those who drove at all after taking marijuana, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes. Charges of driving under the influence can have long-term consequences, including inhibiting a person’s ability to get work or to drive. Therefore, many people were being charged and were turning to a DUI lawyer to help them fight the charges or to have them reduced.
That law ruled that the presence of any THC, the compound in marijuana that causes intoxication, could result in a DUI charge. THC can also be found in products like lollipops and other treats that some prefer to eat instead of smoking marijuana leaf. It can also be administered in oil.
Challenging the Law
A DUI defense lawyer representing two people who were charged for DUI after using medical marijuana challenged the Arizona law by saying that medical marijuana should be protected the same way other prescription drug use is protected. Those who take prescription medication are not charged with DUI simply for driving after ingesting the drugs, and the DUI lawyer argued that medical marijuana should have the same protection.
Unfortunately, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected that argument and upheld law that holds drivers liable for driving under the influence even when they have taken medical marijuana. However, the court did overturn the stipulation that drivers would automatically be charged just for taking medical marijuana and then getting behind the wheel.
The Supreme Court ruled that defendants can now argue that they did not have enough THC in their system to be considered legally intoxicated. The court issued its ruling at the end of November.
The ruling was similar to one the Michigan Supreme Court made in 2013 that police must show that a driver is under the influence before issuing a DUI charge for taking medical marijuana and driving. In Arizona, the burden of proof is on the driver. Possibilities may include taking field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer.
Whether you have taken recreational or medical marijuana and been charged with driving under the influence, you need to call a Mesa DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. Your DUI lawyer may be able to help you get the charges dropped or reduced so that you do not face long-term consequences, such as losing driving privileges or having a hard time getting work. The team at My AZ Lawyers has extensive experience representing clients in DUI cases in Arizona. We can help you whether you were taking medical marijuana, alcohol, or another drug. Call us today for a free consultation and find out how we can help you.
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