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Arizona Marijuana DUI Laws (Updated 2019)

Arizona Marijuana DUI Laws

If you’re looking to understand and find:

  • What are the different ways you can be charged with a Marijuana DUI
  • The meaning of a per se violation for prior use
  • How to use Medical Marijuana as a Defense  

Let’s dive in!

Arizona Marijuana DUI Laws

The Different Ways of Violating Arizona's Marijuana DUI Laws

Most people don’t realize that there are more than one to get a Marijuana DUI. There are actually two distinct ways the consumption of marijuana can result in a DUI under Arizona law. Here’s exactly what the law states:

Arizona Marijuana DUI Laws

In plain english:

The law provides that its illegal to drive (or be in actual phyisical control) of a car while either: (1) impaired by marijuana; or (2) having a form of the drug in your body without a valid medical marijuana card.

To illustrate, if you have a valid medical marijuana card then you still can’t drive while under the unfluence of marijuana to the point of being impaired.  

However, if you drive after any potential effects of marijuana have subsided then its legal to drive with a medical marijuana card.  Arizona law has determined this is an affirmative defense.

But here’s where it gets a little nuts:

Imagined you consume marijuana on a Sunday. However, you don’t have a medical marijuana card. 

The next day, well after the effects of the drug have worn off, you go to work. After putting in a full day’s work you drive home.  Under the current version of Arizona’s law, your prior use of Marijuana, results in a DUI – despite the fact you are not impaired…to any degree.


The Danger of Prior Use

Arizona Marijuana DUI laws present a real risk of convicting innocent people from prior use.  A primary reason is legislation that contradicts what science tells us is true about the drug. However, recently much of the scientific reality about marijuana has made its way to a number of higher courts.  This includes the Arizona Supreme Court.  As a result, the current state of Arizona law provides that prior marijuana use should not, alone, support a DUI conviction.

NHTSA Marijuana Impaired Driving (2017)

Marijuana-Impaired Driving A Report to Congress

NHTSA no evidence-based methods

Thus, there are currently no evidence-based methods to detect marijuana-impaired driving.

NHTSA, Report to United States Congress, 2017

However, while many of the myths about the meaning of a positive marijuana test result have been discarded – the world views of the people that previously prosecuted such cases still remain.  These world views are plainly evident in the way some jurisdictions now prosecute alleged marijuana DUI cases based upon junk science.

While no reasonable person would advocate for a person to drive while impaired by a drug, what should be equally concerning is the wrongful prosecution of someone based up a scientific-sounding opinion lacking any basis in real science.  After all, the American justice system was founded on the fundamental principle that “it is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free.” In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 372, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 1077, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368 (1970).

Duration of Impairment Marijuana

Arizona Marijuana DUI

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many legitimate signs and symptoms that a person may be impaired marijuana, but unfortunately, investigations often go well beyond actual science.  For example, law enforcement will often testify they a green tongue means a person is impaired by marijuana.  This proposition has no basis in science yet it taught by the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration to officers across the United States.  One court that looked into NHTSA’s green tongue theory found:

State has presented nothing, no scientific studies and no case law or other authority, to support the reliability of the trooper’s concern regarding the condition of Hechtle’s tongueCf. State v. Wheeler, No. 24397–1–II, 100 Wash.App. 1062, 2000 WL 646511, *2 n. 2, 2000 Wash.App. LEXIS 779, *7 n. 2 (Wash.Ct.App. May 19, 2000) (“Although we assume the officer’s assertion to be true for the purposes of this opinion, we are nevertheless skeptical as to its accuracy. We find no case stating that recent marijuana usage leads to a green tongue.”). State v. Hechtle, 2004 UT App 96, ¶ 13, 89 P.3d 185, 190

Even the Arizona Court of Appeals has held the mere “scent of marijuana, standing alone, is insufficient evidence of criminal activity to supply probable cause for a search warrant.” State v. Sisco, 2 CA-CR 2014-0181, 2015 WL 4429575, at *1 (Ariz. Ct. App. July 20, 2015)

THC is also known as “Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol” and is the main psychoactive constituent in marijuana.

Hydroxy THC  is the primary metabolite of THC.

Cannabinoids are the active constituents in cannabis.

It is common knowledge that the higher your alcohol concentration, the more severe your intoxication. However, marijuana does not affect you the same as alcohol. The highest levels of the active part of marijuana (THC) are usually in your blood within about 3 to 10 minutes following inhalation. This does not mean the concentration of the drug will be at its highest level in that time frame. The concentration of THC in a blood sample simply has no correlation with a level of impairment.

Marijuana’s maximum influence on your performance usually manifests in 20 to 40 minutes after inhalation, yet this is also during the time period when your THC levels are rapidly falling. (Sewell et al., 2009).

Science has yet to meaningfully quantify how and to what extent marijuana impairs us.  While it is “well established that alcohol consumption increases accident risk, evidence of cannabis’ culpability in on-road driving accidents and injury is far less robust” (Armentano, 2013).

In sum, the presence of marijuana in your blood is simply not a reliable indicator of psychomotor impairment.

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