Maricopa County, AZ- As most states are moving to decriminalize marijuana and develop reasonable marijuana DUI standards, Arizona is not and is aiming to charge thousands of pot smokers with DUI even if they haven’t smoked for days or weeks.
A case before the Arizona Supreme Court involves a man who was charged with DUI after police discovered during a routine traffic stop that he had minute traces of a THC byproduct, Carboxy-THC, in his system. While he tested positive for the Carboxy-THC which is produced as THC breaks down in the body.
THC is metabolized through the fat cells in the body as opposed to alcohol, and it can take weeks even months for it to completely leave a person’s system long after the intoxicating effects of the drug have worn off.
During oral arguments, Maricopa County deputy attorney, Susan Luder agreed with the statements of one of her expert witnesses who testified that a person who has Carboxy-THC in their system is not actually impaired. She also agreed that people can test positive for the byproduct up to a month after they’ve consumed or smoked marijuana.
But Luder argue that the “Legislature is legally entitled to declare that a positive blood test for Carboxy-THC can be used to prosecute someone who, if convicted, can lose a driver’s license for a year,” the Arizona Daily Star reported. While Luder agreed the law was not “fair” it was up to the Legislature to change the standard.
The man at the center of this case was charged with a DUI, but managed to have the charge dismissed. The Appeals Court, however, said the law should be interpreted “broadly,” according to Raw Story.
Some justices questioned the soundness of the law.
“Let’s assume that scientific testing develops and you can find Carboxy-THC remaining in the system for a year, does that have any effect on your position here today?” Chief Justice Rebecca Berch asked Luder on Tuesday. “Let’s now assume that it’s five years that you can test THC levels — Carboxy-THC remaining in the system, does there come a point where the statute lacks a rational basis?”
Other Justices said that the statute was in place to protect motorists from impaired drivers and suggested that it is up to the Legislature to change the standard. In Colorado and Washington where marijuana is legal for recreational use, lawmakers have developed minimum standards for charging an individual with marijuana DUI. Drivers in the state with 5 Nanograms of THC in the blood can be charged with DUI.
The state Supreme Court’s decision could affect the 40,000 Arizonans who used medical marijuana. Attorney Michael Alarid said the ruling would lead to the “absurd result” that thousands of people could use their driver’s license even when they did not drive while they were impaired.
The state law suggests that any person who has smoked marijuana at any time in the past is an impaired driver. This is gross injustice for people who use marijuana for medicinal purposes since in the eyes of the law they are guilty of impaired driving even when they are not directly influenced by the substance.