New Arizona Laws Relating to Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

by | Drug Possession, DUI, Legal information

Arizona has taken an important first step with the passage of Proposition 207. Following Proposition 207, recreational use of marijuana is now legal. While amounts legal for recreational use are well defined and some amounts are only considered a petty offense, this is just the beginning of a longer process.

Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country. Driving under the influence puts everyone at risk, and prosecutors make no bones about their stance regarding this crime. While the law is thorough when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol, it’s going to take some time to establish what DUI means when under the influence of marijuana. There will be some trial and error along the way.

How Marijuana DUI is Usually Approached

Marijuana use cannot be measured through a device as quickly and easily as alcohol use. Breath tests don’t work for marijuana. Instead, law enforcement checked for “active metabolites” that suggest that a motorist has recently used marijuana.

Prior to the passage of Prop 207, anyone who was not a medical marijuana cardholder could be charged with driving under the influence if the presence of these active metabolites were found in their system. There wasn’t a reliable method of defending people against these charges unless they were a cardholder. Cardholders argued, in essence, that it was normal for their medication to be in their system. Non-cardholders didn’t have a valid excuse for having metabolites in their system, which further complicated their cases.

The law still remains the same. Anyone found to be driving with active marijuana metabolites in their system is still in violation of the law. It doesn’t matter that the drug is recreationally legal. Marijuana will, for the time being, be treated similarly to alcohol. Its use is not a crime, but driving under the influence of the substance will remain to be illegal

What May Happen in the Future

Prop 207 left the door open for research and laws pertaining to legal limits of marijuana when driving, just like there are legal limits of alcohol. The law states that the Legislature may vote by a 75% majority to place a threshold, or legal limit, on active marijuana metabolites in the bloodstream while driving. However, there are significant barriers preventing the progression of that step.

The decision and implementation of the threshold can only take place after scientific research can adequately decide how much active metabolites is too much. This isn’t something that is currently being researched, and it may be nearly impossible to determine.

In addition to requiring research, the stipulation also states that the threshold law can only be adopted when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that these laws are put into place.

A legal limit remains to be a longshot. It requires definitive findings from research that was never properly conducted, and the involvement of a national organization. 13 states have legalized recreational marijuana, as of this writing, but marijuana use remains to be a federal crime.

In order for the law to progress to a point where a legal limit can be established for driving under the influence of marijuana, it’s likely that we’ll have to see many more states legalize recreational marijuana use. It’s even more likely that marijuana laws will have to change at a federal level before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is comfortable recommending legal limit laws for marijuana.

Can I Drive After Smoking Marijuana?

Technically, no one can drive with active marijuana metabolites in their system. Even medical cardholders are likely to face charges that they must argue in court. It’s best to assume that no amount of marijuana is safe.

This may pose a significant problem for many marijuana users. Active THC metabolites may remain in the blood of a frequent marijuana user for as long as several days. If tissues are already saturated with THC, metabolites have a tendency to stick around for quite a while.

In occasional marijuana users, active metabolites may fully dissipate within a few hours of using marijuana. If you only occasionally use marijuana, your safest bet is to wait 24 hours after using it to drive again. Use a designated driver or a ride share service just like you would if you consumed alcohol.

Since there is no reliable way to test for marijuana blood metabolites at home, you’re always rolling the dice when you get behind the wheel of a car. If you intend to use marijuana on a regular basis, it’s smarter to avoid taking chances. It may be a very long time before the DUI laws catch up to the recreational use laws.

What if I’ve Been Charged with Marijuana DUI?

The best thing to do is completely avoid any risk of being charged with a marijuana DUI. If you have been charged, you require the immediate assistance of a competent attorney to help you prepare a defense. Before you talk to anyone, talk to The Damianakos Law Firm. Our phones are managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re always here for you.

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