Phoenix, AZ- In a recent decision, a federal appeals court ruled for Arizona’s medical marijuana patients giving many cardholders protections against DUI convictions. Because of the ruling, prosecutors must demonstrate that a cardholder was impaired at the time of their arrest, having THC in their blood is not enough to justify a DUI conviction.
In 2013, Mesa police pulled over Nadir Ishak after they saw him cross over the center line of a street. After pulling him over, they noticed his eyes were bloodshot, and he admitted to smoking marijuana earlier in the day. He was subsequently arrested and charged with driving while impaired to the slightest degree and driving with marijuana in his body, the Washington Times Reports.
Ishak was pleaded guilty to the driving with marijuana in his body charge and was ordered to spend 90 days in jail. During his trial, Ishak was not given the opportunity to tell the court that he was a medical marijuana patient or show his card.
Ishak appealed his case, and on December 22, his conviction was vacated by the appeals court with appellate Judge Diane Johnsen stating he should have been allowed enter his medical marijuana card as evidence. The ruling means that in marijuana-related DUI cases, defendants will be allowed to present their medical marijuana cards as proof in their defense since it allows the cardholder to use marijuana legally.
Judge Johnsen also noted, “there is no scientific consensus about the concentration of THC that generally is sufficient to impair a human being.” In other words, there is no scientific standard saliva test for how much THC must be in a person’s bloodstream for them to be considered impaired, unlike alcohol. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agrees, stating, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”
Not only will defendants be allowed to use their medical marijuana cards as part of their defense, but the prosecution must also be able to show a driver was under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, to secure a conviction. They will not be able to simply obtain a marijuana DUI conviction just because a person has THC in their system.
Because marijuana is metabolized through a person’s body fat, traces of THC can linger in a person’s bloodstream for days. Medical marijuana cardholders use marijuana on a daily basis, so they can test positive for THC even if it’s been hours since they smoked. The ruling in Ishak’s case will benefit other medical marijuana recipients by raising a prosecutor’s burden of proof.
A DUI conviction can have many consequences, especially in Arizona which has some of the country’s toughest DUI laws. Whether you are facing a DUI trial for drinking or smoking marijuana, you need a DUI defense attorney working on your case. USAttorneys can help you locate a lawyer near you to work on your defense and keep you from having a DUI conviction on your record.