Medical Marijuana Law in Arizona

August 8, 2013

There are several aspects of the medical marijuana law that are being questioned, but none more so than the effect it has on the DUI laws. In Arizona there are three ways to get a DUI: 1) Driving while under the influence and impaired to the slightest degree, 2) driving with a 0.08 or higher Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), 3) Driving with a drug or its metabolite in the driver’s body. The reason that there is controversy with the medical marijuana laws is that someone can legally have marijuana in there body and still be convicted of DUI regardless of whether the marijuana is impairing their ability to drive.

So the question becomes, are the Arizona DUI laws which are designed to keep impaired drivers off the road essentially convicting drivers who are not impaired? Driving while alcohol or prescription drugs is in your system is not illegal, it is driving while under the influence of those drugs that is illegal. Now that marijuana has become legal for medical purposes in Arizona the Arizona DUI laws need to change. Arizona DUI laws need to establish a criteria so that there is a fixed amount that a person can drive with and not be presumed under the influence, similar to how the 0.08 BAC amount presumes impairment of alcohol. Determining what the amount will be is a difficult analysis.

Courts are now beginning to examine this controversy between the laws, but the difficult part is determining how to measure marijuana in the blood. Marijuana unlike alcohol can stay in the blood for a very long period of time after consumption. The idea is to determine how much marijuana in the blood stream does it take to impair a driver to the slightest degree. Unfortunately this is amount is harder to establish then the 0.08 BAC level for alcohol. Michigan courts have already begun to rule on the medical marijuana DUI issue. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the amount needed in a drivers system is not arbitrary but is an amount that is great enough to have some effect on the person’s driving ability. Maybe the Arizona Court should model the Michigan ruling to solve this conflict.

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