Medical-marijuana patients are still at risk for a DUI conviction simply for having trace amounts of THC in their bloodstreams, the state Court of Appeals confirmed on Tuesday.
In a 3-0 ruling with disclaimers by one judge, the court upheld the conviction of a Mesa man despite an apparent exception for such prosecutions in the voter-approved, 2010 medical-pot law.
Arizona, if you haven’t heard, has a zero-tolerance law against drivers with marijuana metabolites in their veins, medical card or not. Our May 2013 feature article, “Riding High,” covered how it was possible for patients or illegal cannabis users to be convicted for DUI even when impairment wasn’t a factor, and even when the only metabolite found was carboxy-THC, a molecule known to be inactive.
In April, the state Supreme Court ruled that drivers could not be convicted solely because of the presence of carboxy-THC. But the ruling left patients and illicit users at risk of getting a DUI even when they weren’t impaired.
Testing for marijuana in drivers isn’t as simple as for alcohol, as you may have read. Whole-blood tests can’t determine when someone used marijuana because active THC can stay in the bloodstream hours or days after the last toke. Arizona has for years taken the easy way out of the problem by allowing drivers who test positive for any THC to be charged with a crime.