When someone is under the influence of something to the point that they are too impaired to drive safely, they should not be behind a wheel. That applies to marijuana, or any other substance that has the ability to intoxicate some to the point of inebriation. But just because someone has marijuana in their system does not mean that they were impaired at the time they were pulled over by law enforcement.
For heavy marijuana users, marijuana can stay in their system for as long as 100 days after use in some cases. Even the most hardened marijuana opponent has to agree that if I consume marijuana today, I will not be impaired 100 days from now. I will not even be impaired the next day when I wake up, or since I’m such a heavy user, I may not even be impaired at the time of consumption. I may be microdosing marijuana just enough to ease my arthritis pain.
Marijuana DUI laws need to reflect science, and not reefer madness. That appears to be a concept that Arizona’s Court of Appeals understands. The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that medical marijuana patients should have options after a DUI arrest. Per MyNBC5:
An Arizona court ruling said medical marijuana cardholders accused of driving under the influence have options for showing in court that there wasn’t enough marijuana compound in their bodies to cause impairment.
The Court of Appeals ruling Thursday vacated a man’s conviction for driving while marijuana or a marijuana compound was in his body and says he was entitled to present evidence that he wasn’t impaired.
The ruling said defendants can do that through cross-examination of prosecution witnesses or by providing their own testimony and evidence on whether they were impaired.
This ruling is encouraging, but obviously not perfect. Yes, the medical marijuana patient may ultimately prevail, but only after having their life turned upside down from a needless arrest by an overzealous cop. The patient has to endure the arrest and everything that goes with it, possibly including being incarcerated for a time. They often have to spend large sums hiring an attorney, and have to endure the burden of proving that they weren’t intoxicated at the time of arrest. Still, this ruling is better than nothing. I’m curious to see how many cases take this path as time goes by, and if other states adopt something similar or are forced to by a similar court ruling.