Arizona Ruling Refines Definition of Marijuana DUIs
Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) August 20, 2014 – DUIs usually refer to driving while under the influence of alcohol. With marijuara being more commonly used for a variety of reasons, such as medically/recreationally, comes the debut of marijuana DUIs.
“As marijuana is sometimes used for medical purposes, there is a huge gap among states as to what defines driving under the influence. Twenty-three states and The District of Columbia are currently struggling to find an answer to that question. Interestingly, an Arizona court may have provided the solution to the question –and not just for Arizona, but across the country, should law enforcement and politicians find it flexible enough to adapt to their needs,” observed Thomas C. Grajek, a Lakeland, Florida criminal defense lawyer.
The main issue is one of impairment. So, how long does cannabis stay in the body? The most familiar active compound is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC combines with at least 483 other compounds in the marijuana plant, including cannabidiol, cannabinol, tetrahydrocannabivarin and cannabigerol. When an individual smokes marijuana, two compounds come into play that could impair an individual. The first compound causes the well-known “high,” and the second is an inactive compound that stays in the system after the high.
This inactive compound can be detected via blood and/or urine tests.
Eight states have zero tolerance for marijuana found in the blood stream of an accused, including inactive compounds. Other states demand indication of impairment before charges are laid. And still other states have limits in place for how many active marijuana compounds may be in a person’s system.
In a recent Arizona case, the Arizona High Court ruled that officers cannot charge drivers for being under the influence of marijuana unless the driver is impaired when stopped by police. Drivers in Arizona are no longer at risk of being charged for DUI if they have an inactive metabolite in their blood stream. In part, the Court’s decision said: “Drivers cannot be convicted of the . . . offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.” The inactive metabolite, carboxy-THC, may be found in the blood stream for up to several weeks after smoking the drug.
The dispute was a major issue in Arizona, as the state’s 48,000 registered users were technically breaking DUI laws by driving. “Drivers may still be prosecuted if the active compound THC or the metabolite Hydroxy-THC are present, as both create inebriating effects,” outlined Grajek.
As always, there are exceptions to all rulings in all states.
“Know what rules are in place in your state of residence,” said Grajek, “and if you are uncertain how they may apply to you as a registered medical marijuana user, make sure to speak to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney if you are charged.”