Interviewer: In terms of illegal drugs which is the most common ones that end up resulting in DUI charges?
Arizona Has Passed Medical Marijuana Laws
Brian: The most common illegal drug that we are seeing with DUIs is marijuana. This is probably because it does seem to be the most recreationally used drug. Also, it is because Arizona has passed medical marijuana laws.
There is a problem with the medical marijuana laws that I mentioned before is that it is a defense to have prescription medication that you are taking as prescribed. That is a defense to a count two DUI.
It is not a defense to count one impaired, but it is a defense account to having the drug metabolite present in your system.
Marijuana Usage Is Illegal at the Federal Level
A problem comes into play because of the way the law was written about medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is not prescribed. The reason it is not prescribed is because a doctor cannot prescribe something that is technically illegal.
At the federal level marijuana is still illegal. Even if we are talking medical marijuana, which has been approved in the state of Arizona, it is not prescribed to people. It is “recommended” to people.
The Marijuana Laws Have Limits: Marijuana Cannot Be Legally Prescribed By a Doctor
Since medical marijuana is recommended to people, technically–and there is a lot of arguments about this–technically there is no defense to driving with marijuana in your system because it’s not prescribed.
Interviewer: Don’t you need a doctor to prescribe it to you?
Brian: You do need a doctor but they are not prescribing it because they cannot prescribe an illegal substance. A doctor cannot prescribe cocaine, they cannot prescribe heroine, and legally they cannot prescribe marijuana.
This is even more clouded, especially when we are talking about Arizona, when you have certain states around us–I believe Colorado has recently passed laws–that says you can smoke marijuana. If I remember correctly, it is completely legal to smoke marijuana for personal use.
Interviewer: It is now both Washington State and Colorado.
Brian: People might visit Washington and they might visit Colorado, they might do what is completely legal in those states and come home to Arizona or come visit Arizona and face a different scenario.
Marijuana Metabolites Are Present in Your System for Some Time
The problem with marijuana is that the metabolites of marijuana can stay in a person’s system of up to about a month.
A person cannot leave their metabolites at the border. If they did something that is perfectly legal in Colorado or perfectly legal in Washington they can’t drop off their metabolites at the border. They are going to bring their metabolites just like they bring everything else inside of them when they come into Arizona.
The problem is that if someone is pulled over for whatever reason and the officer notices bloodshot, watery eyes, it is maybe because they are tired. If he or she notices the smell of marijuana, maybe it is because they are wearing an old shirt or someone else smoked marijuana in the car.
If the person ends up getting arrested for suspicion of DUI and they end up taking the person’s blood or the person’s urine, very likely they will find the metabolite of marijuana in their system.