On the heels of 80,000 visitors going to Colorado this past weekend to mark April 20, the emerging holiday to celebrate the recreational sale of marijuana becoming legal, a celebration which drew people from various backgrounds with different needs and desires, the state of Arizona has outlined rules for prosecuting drivers who are under the influence of marijuana.
According to the Arizona Supreme Court in a ruling they released this Tuesday, drivers cannot be arrested and charged with DUI unless they are impaired at the time of the DUI stop. This is the latest of many such rulings that lawmakers and courts have grappled with as several states have legalized the recreational use of this drug.
Arizona State Supreme Court overturns Court of Appeals Decision
According to a recent report by CNN, this ruling overturns a recent decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals which “upheld the right of authorities to prosecute pot smokers for DUI even when there is no evidence of impairment.”
At issue is what to do with Arizona drivers who have pot in their urine or blood following a DUI stop. The Arizona Supreme Court ruling reviewed the two chemical compounds in marijuana that show up in blood and urine tests. The Arizona court noted that one chemical might remain in the blood or urine but did not cause impairment, while the other compound would.
Several cases have necessitated Arizona take a closer look at the effects of driving under the influence of pot. Previously, state prosecutors had simply advised pot smokers, even those who used the drug for medical reasons, to avoid driving if they used marijuana. But without clear-cut legal precedent it was possible for some pot users to be convicted of DUI even if they were not impaired at the time of the DUI stop.
The Supreme Court in Arizona disagreed with the lower court arguing that drivers may use pot and drive at a later point even if with the presence of the non-psychoactive compound in their blood stream, but the existence of this compound would not be enough to constitute impairment under the law. The Supreme Court was, however, quick to note that it remains illegal to drive if you are impaired by marijuana.
Arizona and Washington allow for recreational pot use
Two states- Washington and Colorado– have legalized the recreational use of pot. Twenty-one other states, including the District of Columbia, allow medical marijuana use. Unfortunately, the laws in these states are not standard.
For instance, some states require drivers to exhibit signs of impairment to be charged with DUI for pot use. Other states have zero tolerance for the presence of any marijuana in the blood; while a few states have limits for how much active marijuana can be in the system.
Before using marijuana and operating a motorized vehicle it’s important to understand your state’s laws and what constitutes DUI for pot use. A DUI arrest has very serious consequences and penalties.
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