While recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in Arizona, its use has been legally allowed for medical purposes since 2010. Additionally, two other western states have legalized its use for any purpose. Such realities have led to many questions including whether or not the presence of marijuana in a person’s system can lead to an arrest for drunk driving or related offenses.
This question has been debated in the courts for some time. Last year, a state Court of Appeals ruled that people who smoke pot could in fact be arrested for and charged with DUIs, whether or not any impairment was observed. An article published in the media recently reported on a ruling handed down from the Arizona Supreme Court that changes this earlier ruling.
The latest verdict does indicate that impairment from the recreational use of marijuana is illegal but that without identifiable impairment, a driver cannot be charged with drugged driving. Smoking pot results in Hydroxy-THC in the body at first but this quickly metabolizes into Carboxy-THC, which can remain in the body for weeks. The first compound can result in impairment but the second does not. A driver found with Carboxy-THC in his or her blood or urine is not liable for any under the influence charge.
A driver who is stopped by officers and accused of a drug or alcohol-related offense may be well served to discuss the case with a private attorney. The laws can change quickly and small nuances can make the difference in a defense case.
Source: AZFamily.com, “Court finds pot compound not subject to DUI law,” Brian Skoloff, April 22, 2014