Arizona medical Marijuana sb 1440 dispensaries
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Arizona: Supreme Court Rejects THC DUI Law

Arizona Marijuana dui supreme courtBy Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

The Arizona Supreme Court this week rejected a 1990 state law that classified the presence of inert THC metabolites in blood or urine as a per se traffic safety violation.

Carboxy-THC, the primary metabolite (breakdown product) of THC is not psychoactive. Because it is lipid soluble, the metabolite may remain detectable in blood or urine for periods of time that extend well beyond any suspected period of impairment. As a result, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges, “It is … currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations.”

Nonetheless, under Arizona law, the mere presence of carboxy THC — absent any evidence of behavioral impairment — was considered to be a criminal violation of the state’s traffic safety laws. (Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah impose similar statutes.) On Wednesday, the Court struck down the provision.

Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Brutinel opined: “The State’s interpretation that ‘its metabolite’ includes any byproduct of a drug listed in § 13-3401 found in a driver’s system leads to absurd results. … Most notably, 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. For example, at oral argument the State acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, 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.”

He added: “Additionally, this interpretation would criminalize otherwise legal conduct. In 2010, Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”), legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite the legality of such use, and because § 28-1381(A)(3) does not require the State to prove that the marijuana was illegally ingested, prosecutors can charge legal users under the (A)(3) provision. Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion, the State’s position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana.”

The Court concluded: “Because the legislature intended to prevent impaired driving, we hold that the ‘metabolite’ reference in § 28-1381(A)(3) is limited to any of a proscribed substance’s metabolites that are capable of causing impairment. Accordingly, … drivers cannot be convicted of the (A)(3) offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.”

The Court did not address provisions in the state’s per se DUI law outlawing the operation of a motor vehicle with any presence of THC in one’s blood even though, according to NHTSA, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”

Source: NORML - make a donation

  • moldy

    This sounds like a big deal…. hopefully.

    • Jetdoc

      It IS a big deal moldy! The Maricopa County Attorney was the one pushing this law. He had a guy arrested and charged for inactive metabolites in his system. Charged him with DUIC. The cannabis community here in AZ went NUTS! The MCAO (Bill Montgomery) has pulled the most inane reasons out of his ASS, to overturn AZ’s (Voter Approved) Medical Marijuana Law. There’s a coalition of about 10 INFLUENTIAL politicians who stand in the background and yell “Sic em Monty, Sic em!” Then they turn HIM loose because he’s a MORON and doesn’t care how STUPID he looks trying to overturn our law. So far, EVERY ONE of his arguments against our law has been shot down in Court at every level. He’s NOT won, once! But as long as he’ll let them USE him, they’ll continue to turn his ass loose.

      He tried the argument that City County and State employees would be arrested for PROCESSING Patients cards, Dispensary applications etc… because of the Controlled Substances Act. He then told the County Supervisors that THEY could go to jail by approving Zoning Ordinances for Dispensaries. He ran out the argument (that actually made me LAUGH MY FUCKING ASS OFF, since AZ told the Federal Govt. to go FUCK themselves on Immigration) that “Federal Law trumps State Law”! When just 6 months earlier they passed SB1070. (Google SB1070 if you don’t KNOW what it is) telling the Federal Govt that States Rights rule since Federal Govt. won’t enforce existing law.

      This is a CIRCUS act out here. Hypocrisy runs RAMPANT in this State. However were starting to tire of all the NEO-CON shit that went on out here over the past 40 years.

      But yes moldy, this is a HUGE deal here in AZ

      • Blacky Whitey

        Jetdoc, thanks for the information you’ve provided. I don’t live in AZ but after reading your comment I feel pissed off like I DO live in your state. WTF! I wish people like Bill would just move on and get over it. It’s hard for them to accept that marijuana isn’t as bad as what they’ve been told.

  • MrPC

    Unlike drunk driving, driving while stoned citations should be issued strictly due to actual impairment, not some artificial and meaningless blood or saliva test. There’s a standard roadside impairment test that would probably be adequate, although an iPad app or some other automated system might be better. And I’m betting the percentage of drivers who are actually impaired by cannabis is far lower than drivers who are under the influence of prescription meds.

  • Trippin Sanchez :{)

    This is great news, I hope other states come around, the current guidelines are insane

  • I used to drive stoned in the “good old days”. Never had a problem except missing my exit on expressways. My personal record was 97 miles.