Did you know that you can be charged with DUI Drugs if you were driving days, or even weeks after smoking marijuana…even if you have a medical marijuana card? Unfortunately, we see it all too often. Here’s the usual scenario: Person gets pulled over…Cop suspects the person is impaired…Person knows they haven’t been drinking…Person submits to a breath test…Person passes the breath test…Cop still thinks person is impaired and/or person tries to be compliant and admits to smoking marijuana days ago…Cop arrests person…Cop gets warrant and takes blood…Blood test comes back positive for the metabolite of THC….Person is charged with DUI Drugs (which has virtually the same penalties as someone that was actually driving under the influence of alcohol). Even those that have a medical marijuana card can be charged. If you have questions as to how to prevent this scenario from happening to you, feel free to contact us. If you are interested in medical marijuana cards, more information is provided in our blog “Medical Marijuana and me.”
Medical Marijuana and Me
With Medical Marijuana now legal in Arizona, many patients are wondering what their rights are regarding marijuana usage and driving. After being certified as a qualified patient by a licensed physician, a patient is registered and receives an identification card. (ARS 36-2804.A.2.) What state the patient is registered in does not matter, Arizona honors out of state registered patients with identification, up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. (ARS 36-2804.03.C.)
Arizona DUI laws make it unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of any drug if the person is impaired to the slightest degree. (ARS 28-1381.A.1.) Also, it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while there is any drug defined in section 13-3401 or its metabolite in the person’s body. (ARS 28-1381.A.3.) Marijuana, or cannabis, is one of those drugs. (ARS 13-3401.4.)
Under ARS 28-1381.A.3, there is no requirement for impairment. Any amount of a listed drug in a person’s body is sufficient for a charge. However, if a person is using a drug as prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner, they are not guilty of violating 28-1381.A.3. Medical marijuana does not fall under this exception because of a federal law, the Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits physicians from prescribing marijuana because it is considered a Schedule I drug. Physicians cannot prescribe Schedule I drugs because they are deemed highly addictive and have no medical value. Technically, physicians may only recommend medical marijuana to patients, not prescribe it.
Medical marijuana does not fall under the prescribed drug exception, so patients are at a higher risk for DUI. The Medical Marijuana Act suggests a person should not be charged in this scenario, but DUI laws suggest they will be. But one thing is clear: driving impaired and under the influence of marijuana is unlawful and can result in a DUI charge, regardless of whether the driver has a medical marijuana card.