In January, several Arizona dispensaries began selling marijuana to legal adults who do not have a medical marijuana card. The move came after voters approved Arizona marijuana sales. Motorists must understand that despite the legalization of recreational marijuana, they may still be arrested and charged with an Arizona DUI. Notwithstanding the presumed increase of Arizonans consuming marijuana, the State reports a decrease in the overall number of drug-related DUI arrests. However, the director of Arizona’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety stated that the numbers might be slightly misleading because the data is incomplete.
In Arizona, the State can charge and prosecute individuals for DUI drugs under two main statutes, ARS §28-1381(A)(1) and ARS §28-1381(A)(3). Under the first statute, it is illegal for an individual to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any alcohol, drug or inhalant. A charge under this statute may occur when the motorist is impaired to the “slightest degree.” The second statute provides that it is illegal for one to drive a motorized vehicle under the influence of any drug or its metabolite. This statute encompasses substances such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and prescription medications being used illegally. Under the statute, a person does not need to exhibit actual impairment; instead, they may be guilty by solely having the drug or its metabolite in their system.
Although marijuana and its THC component are legal to use recreationally, issues may arise if the person exhibits even slight impairment. Arizonans may not need to present a medical marijuana card to defend themselves against certain DUI charges, but they may still face impairment charges. Many charges stemming from marijuana DUIs may hinge on whether someone is too impaired or high to drive. Issues often arise because, unlike alcohol, marijuana requires a blood test. However, where alcohol tends to metabolize quickly and goes away within a matter of hours, marijuana and its accompanying THC may remain in one’s system for days after the effects have dissipated.