Arizona has the toughest Sheriff in the Country, and now the toughest Marijuana DUI laws.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in Arizona under Arizona Revised Statutes (Section 28-1381(A)).
In Arizona, motorists are prohibited not only from driving while impaired by the effects of marijuana, but also "while there is any drug defined in section 13-3401 or its metabolite in the person's body." Recent case law exists that allows for prosecution under this law in Arizona, even if the motorist was not driving impaired. That is, if the only substance found in their bodily system was residual trace compounds that were present due to Marijuana smoked or ingested weeks prior to the DUI stop, they may still be prosecuted.
Frequent Marijuana users, especially Medical Marijuana users, have been known to tolerate anywhere from 2 to 5 times of what would be considered the legal limit of Marijuana in some of the states that have legalized it in some fashion, and still drive without impaired function in driving skills.
We provided a post post on this ruling several months ago. This is refresher and update on the topic since the ruling could have broad impacts throughout the country. A US Supreme Court ruling that would hold this decision in favor of prosecuting the non-impaired motorist, could potentially have serious consequences not only for Arizona residents, but also for people from out of state who are driving to or through Arizona and used marijuana a month before their trip. We believe that the defendant is appealing the case to the Supreme Court, but there is no word on whether the court has decided to hear this case as of yet.
A first time marijuana DUI offense can be punished by up to six months in jail, as well as with a mandatory substance abuse program and the requirement that you install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. If convicted of only driving under the influence of marijuana (as opposed to marijuana and alcohol), your driver's license will also be revoked for a year.
The active ingredient in marijuana is the drug THC. Unlike blood alcohol tests, a blood test for marijuana cannot determine how intoxicated or impaired you might be from the THC. THC is rapidly metabolized in the blood stream and turns into about eighty different molecules called metabolites. These metabolites are stored in the user's body fat. Some of them have a half life of twenty hours, but others can take 10-13 days to be eliminated from the body. When a blood test is taken, certain non-active metabolites may show up on the test. Anecdotally, some heavy marijuana smokers have reported positive test results well over a month after stopping smoking.
Earlier this year in the case Arizona v. Shilgevorkyan, an Arizona appellate court ruled that any motorist with any metabolite or marijuana in their bloodstream could be convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana. The defendant had been stopped for speeding and unsafe lane changes and agreed to take a blood test. One metabolite, Carboxy-THC was found in his bloodstream.
The defendant argued that it was not "the" metabolite referred to in the statute. His attorney put forward an expert who testified that this metabolite was not psychoactive and could take 4 weeks to leave the body. The superior court agreed with him, but the State appealed. The appellate court looked at the legislative intent of the statute and determined that the statute intended to outlaw any of the metabolites into which THC metabolizes.
The medical marijuana bill barely passed in Arizona--it was defeated in 12 out of 15 counties and as the case described above shows, Arizona continues to penalize drug use very harshly even if it happened in the past.