Those with medical marijuana cards in Arizona were dealt a blow today by the Arizona Court of Appeals. The bottom line is that the ruling was illogical and went against those who have medical marijuana cards that are charged with DUI Drugs. If you smoke marijuana and have a medical marijuana card, you are not safe if you drive, even if you are not impaired. Let’s break it down.
The defendant in this case had a valid medical marijuana card and was arrested for DUI in Mesa. He was charged with two types of DUI. The first charge makes it illegal to have any illegal drug in your system while you are driving, and as a result of having a drug in your system you are impaired to the slightest degree. The second charge simply makes it illegal to have any illegal drugs in your system while you are driving, period. It does not matter if you were impaired.
The defendant in this case went to trial, and the jury found him not guilty of being impaired, but did find him guilty of having marijuana in his system while driving. In his appeal he claimed that the medical marijuana statute (AMMA) specifically states that those with medical marijuana cards are barred from being prosecuted for having marijuana in their system while driving.
The medical marijuana law states that you are not “under the influence” while driving “solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.” The Court held that this language does not clearly show that the law was intended to exempt those with medical marijuana cards from prosecution. If you are scratching your head right now, don’t feel stupid. The Court’s decision makes absolutely no sense. And you don’t have to be a lawyer to know why. If this part of the law does not allow for those who have marijuana in their system (that are not impaired) to drive, then what else could it possibly mean? The Court did not bother to answer that question. Also, as a side note, if you think that this is ridiculous, remember that it is perfectly legal to drive in Arizona with, say, OxyContin in your system as long as you have a prescription!
The good news is that there was one judge (out of three) who disagreed with the other judges. She specifically said that clearly the law intended for those who are not impaired to be able to show that in Court if prosecuted for DUI. She also noted that the amount of marijuana in the defendant’s system was less than the amount that makes it illegal to be guilty of DUI Drugs in Colorado. Hopefully the Arizona Supreme Court will review this decision and overturn it.