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State Supreme Court: long-lasting marijuana metabolite isn’t proof of DUI

marijuanaArizonans who smoke marijuana can’t be charged with driving while impaired absent actual evidence they are affected by the drug, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled this morning.

The justices rejected arguments by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office that a motorist whose blood contains the slight amount of a metabolite of marijuana, can be presumed to be driving while impaired and therefore driving illegally. They said the medical evidence shows that’s not to be the case.

Today’s ruling most immediately affects the more than 40,000 Arizonans who are legal medical marijuana users. It means they will not be effectively banned from driving, giving how long the metabolite, Carboxy-THC, remains in the blood. It also provides protection against impaired driving charges for anyone else who drives and has used marijuana in the last 30 days, including those who might be visiting from Washington or Colorado, where recreational use of the drug is legal.

The case involves a driver cited for a traffic violation who, when given a blood test, was found to have Carboxy-THC in his system and was charged with driving with an illegal drug or its metabolite in his body.

A trial judge threw out the charge. But the Court of Appeals said the laws on impaired driving “must be interpreted broadly.”

In arguments to the court, Susan Luder, a deputy Maricopa County attorney, acknowledged that Carboxy-THC, a secondary metabolite of marijuana, can show up in blood tests for a month after someone has used the drug. And she did not dispute the concession of her own expert witness that the presence of that metabolite does not indicate someone is impaired.

But Luder told the justices the Legislature is legally entitled to declare that a positive blood test for Carboxy-THC can be used to prosecute someone who, if convicted, can lose a driver’s license for a year.

But Justice Robert Brutinel, writing the majority ruling, said that argument makes no sense.

“This interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect,” he wrote. Brutinel pointed out that Lunder admitted to the justices that, the way Arizona law is worded, “if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.”

And Brutinel noted that even prosecutors contend the metabolite itself does not cause impairment.

5 comments

  1. Had a relative convicted of DUI – Marijuana back in 2013. Lost his license for a friggin YEAR! Had to have an IID installed for friggin WEED…..IT DOESN’T MEASURE WEED!

    Will this ruling allow him to go back and challenge his conviction?

    Anyone?

  2. This is a great first step toward a rational policy for marijuana with regards to marijuana. Now we just need to absorb the rest of the truth. — Some people think marijuana consumption causes accidents like alcohol. It doesn’t, for various reasons. Research has shown marijuana is not as intoxicating as alcohol. More importantly, while alcohol drinkers think they are better drivers and so drive faster and more aggressively, marijuana consumers are very aware of their altered consciousness and correctly judge when they are too impaired to drive – refraining from doing so. If they must, they correctly compensate for their altered state by driving slower and more cautiously.

    The point is, judgement is not affected like it is with alcohol. Marijuana consumers simply don’t put themselves or others in harm’s way. This is why the PREPONDERANCE of studies show marijuana is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents.

    Marijuana and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Evidence

    http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=5450

    Also, the latest research shows a striking reduction in fatal traffic accidents in medical marijuana states. Researchers concluded a significant portion of drivers have switched from alcohol to marijuana.

  3. This is a great first step toward a rational policy for marijuana with regards to driving. Now we just need to absorb the rest of the truth. — Some people think marijuana consumption causes accidents like alcohol. It doesn’t, for various reasons. Research has shown marijuana is not as intoxicating as alcohol. More importantly, while alcohol drinkers think they are better drivers and so drive faster and more aggressively, marijuana consumers are very aware of their altered consciousness and correctly judge when they are too impaired to drive – refraining from doing so. If they must, they correctly compensate for their altered state by driving slower and more cautiously.

    The point is, judgement is not affected like it is with alcohol. Marijuana consumers simply don’t put themselves or others in harm’s way. This is why the PREPONDERANCE of studies show marijuana is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents.

    Marijuana and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Evidence

    http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=5450

    Also, the latest research shows a striking reduction in fatal traffic accidents in medical marijuana states. Researchers concluded a significant portion of drivers have switched from alcohol to marijuana.

  4. the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    Senator Kimberley Yee runs Arizona and marijuana is her #1 target, look out Arizonans

    “any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol and Tobacco: Millions
    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
    Deaths by Guns: Millions
    Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
    Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever

    AMERICA’S WAR ON DRUGS IS A WAR ON AMERICANS! 33

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