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Arizona Supreme Court: Thc In System Does Not Equal Stoned Driving

Michael Komorn



The Arizona Supreme Court has been making a lot of Pot-friendly rulings as of late. The latest involves an ordinance from 1990 which stated that the presence of inert THC metabolites, namely carboxy-THC, in the body, regardless of any visual impairment, would qualify an individual as driving under the influence (DUI). Carboxy-THC is an inert metabolite that does not have any psychoactive effect, yet under the old ordinance, would still qualify an individual of driving under the influence. Further more, Carboxy-THC Metabolites can remain in your system for twenty eight to thirty days after ingestion. The Court struck down the ordinance stating that, “The State’s interpretation that ‘its metabolite’ includes any byproduct of a drug listed in § 13-3401 found in a driver’s system leads to absurd results. … Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect. For example, at oral argument the State acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.”

This ruling comes at a crucial time when Michigan is facing a similar proposal for road side tests that would take saliva samples to determine the levels of THC in an individual’s body. The Michigan legislature should look to Arizona when forming their conclusions on what “stoned driving” means.

Further comments made by the Arizona Supreme Court echo what many in Michigan feel, “Additionally, this interpretation would criminalize otherwise legal conduct. In 2010, Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”), legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite the legality of such use, and because § 28-1381(A)(3) does not require the State to prove that the marijuana was illegally ingested, prosecutors can charge legal users under the (A)(3) provision. Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion, the State’s position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana.”

The Michigan legislature needs to recognize that our state is a medical marijuana state, and instead of finding new ways to create criminals out of legal patients, we need to find ways to protect them.

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