Cannabis in America
Arizona Medical Marijuana Patients Granted DUI Defense Options
Arizona medical marijuana cardholders now have a better ability to defend themselves if they are charged with a marijuana DUI. The Arizona State Court of Appeals ruled that prosecutors must present sufficient evidence that an individual was actually impaired at the time of the arrest.
The ruling overturned a man’s marijuana conviction, after the defense argued he should have been able to present evidence that he wasn’t impaired. Nadir Ishak was pulled over by police in 2013 after he was seen drifting into another lane. According to the officer, Ishak admitted that he had smoked marijuana earlier that morning and was exhibiting body and eye tremors during the test. Ishak was acquitted of the charge of driving under the influence but convicted for driving with marijuana in his body. However, the judge determined there wasn’t enough evidence to support that conviction.
“[A]ccording to evidence here, there is no scientific consensus about the concentration of THC that generally is sufficient to impair a human being,” appellate Judge Diane Johnsen wrote.
The appeals judge determined that defendants can defend a conviction “through cross-examination of prosecution witnesses or by providing their own testimony and evidence on whether they were impaired.”
According to the Associated Press, the ruling was made possible thanks to a 2015 Arizona Supreme Court decision that determined patients could use their medical marijuana cards as a defense, but not as immunity. Cardholders can try to prove that they didn’t have enough THC, marijuana’s major psychoactive component, in their system to impair their ability to operate the vehicle safety.
This decision is seen as a major setback for prosecutors since Arizona, unlike some other states, has no laws outlining the legal limit of THC that may be absorbed in the blood before an individual is determined to be impaired.
While this decision doesn’t mean medical marijuana cardholders cannot be convicted of DUIs, it does grant users more freedom in protecting their right to a prescription. Patients must decide for themselves if medicating with cannabis before driving is worth the risk of a potential arrest.