Arizona Court: Medical Marijuana License No Excuse for DUI

A prescription for medical marijuana is no excuse to drive with the drug in your system, a court in the state of Arizona recently affirmed.

The issue dates back to December of 2011 after a man in Phoenix was pulled over and subsequently tested positive for the drug.

The defendant, Travis Darrah, initially faced two DUI charges. One charge of driving impaired was dismissed but a second charge of driving with a prohibited drug in his system stuck – the latter of which is considered a misdemeanor.

With it, the charge carries a fine and a suspension of license privileges.

Upon appeal, Darrah argued that the second charge should be dropped as well due to his medical marijuana license. Darrah also argued that just because marijuana was in his system, it didn’t mean he was impaired.

Unfortunately for the defendant, the appeals court disagreed – implying that expert testimony from a criminalist showed that Darrah’s blood level might have caused impairment at the time he was driving the vehicle. Additionally, the appeals court based its ruling on something else: Arizona state law.

Judge Michael Brown noted that there was nothing in Arizona’s medical marijuana law that would exclude Brown’s prosecution simply based upon his license.

“If Arizona voters had intended to completely bar the State from prosecuting authorized marijuana users under § 28-1381(A)(3), they could have easily done so by using specific language to that effect,” Brown emphasized, according to a PDF file provided via the Arizona court system.

Has Arizona set a new precedent in terms of how similar cases will be examined in other states? Such cases likely depend on state laws that may vary greatly.

Voters across the U.S. are increasingly pushing for reform in drug laws involving marijuana use. During the midterm elections just earlier this month, both Alaska and Oregon legalized recreational use of the drug.