Judge Rules that Medical Marijuana Card Holders Can Face DUI Charges
A judge in Arizona ruled that medical marijuana cardholders can be charged for DUI if they are found to be impaired at the time they are pulled over.
The ruling stemmed from an appeal filed by Travis Lance Darrah, who was arrested on DUI charges in 2011 for having marijuana in his system while driving. Darrah appealed the ruling because he is a medical marijuana cardholder, making it legal for him to use the drug in Arizona.
Originally, Darrah was acquitted of the DUI charge, which was reduced to a misdemeanor for having an illegal substance in his system. Darrah appealed the ruling because it was legal for him to have used marijuana.
However, the appeals court judge has now ruled that Darrah, and other medical marijuana users in Arizona, are not exempt from DUI charges if they are found to be intoxicated on the drug while driving.
The ruling does not resolve any conflict regarding Arizona’s DUI and medical marijuana laws, however. Marijuana’s metabolite THC remains in the bloodstream for up to one month after use, meaning that a driver can test positive for marijuana even if they are not intoxicated while operating the vehicle. However, Arizona’s current DUI law states that any driver who tests positive for an intoxicating substance while operating a vehicle is subject to DUI charges.
“If Arizona voters had intended to completely bar the state from prosecuting authorized marijuana users under (this section of the law) they could have easily done so by using specific language to that effect,” Appellate Judge Michael Brown wrote regarding his ruling.
Darrah’s attorney, however, argued that medical marijuana metabolites are similar to trace amounts of prescription painkiller, now that Arizona has a medical marijuana law. If a driver has small quantities of prescription painkillers in their system, and a legitimate prescription, while operating a motor vehicle, then they are not committing a DUI.
Colorado, Washington state, and Montana have all passed legislation to define marijuana DUI as five parts per billion of THC in the blood. In 2013, the first year of legal recreational use in Washington, the state saw a 25% jump in marijuana DUI arrests, as alcohol-related DUIs fell in number.
A recent study, which used results from 9 states that test 80% of drivers involved in fatal crashes for drugs and alcohol, found that drivers who were sober but tested positive for marijuana use were slightly less likely to cause a crash than drivers who tested negative for all drugs and alcohol.
“We were expecting a huge impact,” said Eduardo Romano, lead author of the study, conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, “and when we looked at the data from crashes, we’re not seeing that much.”
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Marijuana DUI, or DUID, Charges
Although South Carolina legislators recently legalized one form of medical marijuana, marijuana use for any other reason is illegal, and a DUID or marijuana DUI can have very serious charges. The penalties for a conviction of driving under the influence of drugs are identical to the consequences of a DUI conviction in South Carolina. If you are pulled for driving under the influence of prescription drugs or medication, you may be asked to submit to a screening test in which your urine is screened for the presence of drugs.
If you face DUI charges, whether it is your first charge, or felony DUI, you may feel alone and afraid. Being charged with driving under the influence of illegal drugs does not automatically mean that you are guilty or that the prosecution does not have to prove its case. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm have helped people facing DUI charges since 1996. We offer free, confidential consultations. Contact us for help today. 803.252.4800