Arizona marijuana DUI case tossed by courts, rules inactive metabolites don’t equal impairment


Flickr/Alex E. Proimos.

Arizonans no longer risk getting a DUI for driving with an inactive metabolite of marijuana in their blood following a ruling by the state’s high court.
The Arizona Supreme Court announced this morning that it was reaffirming the trial court’s decision to dump the case of Hrach Shilgevorkyan, who was prosecuted for driving while impaired after a blood test revealed the presence of marijuana. New Times covered the case and overall issue in detail in the Phoenix New Times May 2013 article “Riding High.

Here’s what the state’s High Court had to say about the case in its 4-1 decision:

“We are not persuaded and reject the State’s argument that [the law]‘creates a flat ban on the presence of any drug or its metabolite in a person’s body while driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle,’ even when the only metabolite found is not impairing . . . “Because the legislature intended to prevent impaired driving, we hold that the ‘metabolite’ reference in [the law]is limited to any of a proscribed substance’s metabolites that are capable of causing impairment . . . Drivers cannot be convicted of the . . . offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.”

The opinion follows a ruling last year by the Arizona Court of Appeals that upheld the zero-tolerance law. Studies show the inactive metabolite carboxy-THC can be detected in the blood of some drivers for a few weeks after their last toke.
Read more on this major decision over at the Phoenix New Times.