Arizona Prosecutors: Medical Marijuana or Driver’s License

Some prosecutors in Arizona say card-carrying medical marijuana users in the state will be forced to make a decision: Your marijuana or your driver’s license.
They contend that any driver found with any amount of marijuana in their blood can be charged with driving under the influence. The fact that one has a valid medical marijuana recommendation, approved by a doctor and sanctioned by the state, will not be considered an adequate defense.

Our Arizona marijuana lawyers are incensed by this approach, which not only flies in the face of science and the underlying spirit of traditional DUI law, but also denigrates the credibility of the prosecutor’s office.

Still, the state’s “zero tolerance” policy with regard to marijuana was upheld by a state appeals court in February. This could ultimately be appealed to the state’s Superior Court, but in the meantime, any trace of pot in one’s blood stream could be grounds for a DUI case.

Prosecutors say the law allows drivers with valid prescriptions to drive after consuming those drugs, so long as they are not impaired. However, marijuana can’t technically be “prescribed,” only “recommended,” and therefore, the legal protection for users is unclear.

Police say they only stop and/or arrest drivers for these offenses if they exhibit signs of impairment. However, we all know that some officers have a tendency to be overly-aggressive. We also know that they can sometimes be flat-out wrong when it comes to interpreting the potential signs of impairment.

That’s why so many agencies have invested in extensive training needed to certify officers as drug impairment recognition experts – precisely because it’s not always easy to determine.

But perhaps the biggest mistake prosecutors are making is the assertion that marijuana has a similar physiological effect on a person in terms of its dissipation rate. Alcohol dissipates in the blood stream very quickly, which means even trace amounts can be interpreted as fairly recent consumption. However, marijuana dissipates at a rate much slower, and can remain in one’s system for weeks or possibly even longer after consumption.

For medical marijuana users, the concentration of the drug in one’s system could be quite high, even though he or she is in no way impaired.

We are not encouraging anyone to drive while they are high. All of us who share the road know this is irresponsible and dangerous. However, labeling every medical marijuana user as an impaired driver is also irresponsible and dangerous.

We promise to help you fight these claims vigorously.

If you are stopped for marijuana DUI in Arizona, our best advice at this point is to refrain from making any sort of a statement to officers regarding your marijuana use. We would never recommend lying to police, but you can refrain from answering whether you have a medical marijuana card, as this may only affirm an officer’s suspicion that there is marijuana in your system, making him or her more likely to order a blood test for you.

If you are arrested, make sure your phone call is to a lawyer with extensive experience with marijuana DUI defense.

The Arizona marijuana DUI lawyers at the CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.

Additional Resources:
Medical marijuana use and driving could mean a DUI, Aug. 9, 2013, Staff Report, Associated Press
More Blog Entries:
Study: Medical Marijuana Approval Associated With Lower DUI Fatalities, Aug. 22, 2013, Arizona Marijuana DUI Lawyer Blog

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