Last month, on Tuesday October 21, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued a ruling that clarified laws regarding medical marijuana and driving under the influence (DUI). The ruling stated that Arizona's statewide medical marijuana law does not exempt drivers from being arrested and charged for driving under the influence if they are found to be intoxicated by pot while behind the wheel.
The ruling stems from a 2011 case, in which a registered medical marijuana user was charged with two counts of DUI – one charge for impairment, another for the presence of marijuana in his system. During that case, the defendant was acquitted of driving while impaired by a jury but was convicted under a DUI law that bans driving with a prohibited drug or its compound in the body.
He then appealed, arguing that all medical marijuana users are not susceptible to prosecutions under the Arizona medical malpractice act – unless they drive while impaired. His argument also included the idea that registered medical marijuana patients could only be prosecuted for driving while impaired. The three appellate judges did not agree, ruling that the defendant was in fact guilty of driving under the influence for having a compound in his body.
No Immunity for Medical Marijuana Users
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act was passed in 2010, and medical marijuana is used by tens of thousands of Arizona residents with qualifying needs. With their decision last month, the Arizona Court of Appeals clarified that there is nothing in the state's medical marijuana laws that exempt legal medical marijuana users from DUI laws.
Although the court has weighed in, many experts believe that the issue will be complicated by the fact that many states and law enforcement agencies are struggling to determine an appropriate legal limit for marijuana DUIs. For now, however, drivers in Arizona should be aware that they can face serious penalties is arrested and charged for driving under the influence of pot.
If you have questions about a recent DUI arrest – including an arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana – you can find the support and information you need at the Knowles Law Firm, PLC. Our legal team includes former prosecutors and a former Arizona police officer who know how to defend clients' freedoms and futures.