Arizona Loosens Marijuana DUI Laws

Arizona law makes it illegal for a person to drive a vehicle if there are any illegal drugs or metabolites of any illegal drugs in the person’s body.  For a person to be charged under this statute, the State does not have to prove the person’s ability to operate a vehicle was impaired; rather, they simply have to show that through blood or urine analysis, the person had an illegal drug in their system or its metabolite.

The Current Case

Arizona recently reviewed the case State of Arizona v. Harris Shilgevorkyan, to determine whether Arizona’s current drug DUI laws are too broad.  Attorneys for Defendant argued that it is unjust for a person to be charged with a drug DUI if the only trace of drug in the person’s system at the time of arrest was a non-impairing metabolite. To fully understand what a “metabolite” is, the court referenced the defined meaning in a medical dictionary.  According to the dictionary used by the court, a metabolite is “any product of metabolism.”  Metabolism is “the sum of all physical and chemical changes that take place within an organism.”  To put this in simpler terms, the court said that metabolism is the “breakdown process of getting rid of a drug or substance.”

What Is The Case Deciding

The issue the court was deciding in interpreting the broad drug DUI law was weather a person can be charged with a drug DUI if they have traces of the marijuana metabolite “Carboxy-THC” – a non-impairing metabolite of marijuana. What is “Carboxy-THC?” Marijuana has several metabolites; however, its two major metabolites are Hydroxy-THC and Carboxy-THC.  Marijuana metabolizes in the following order Marijuana à Hydroxy-THC à Carboxy-THC.  Hydroxy-THC does not stay in a person’s body for very long.  Because of the very short time period, a majority of agencies do not test for Hydroxy-THC.  The metabolite Carboxy-THC can stay in a person’s body for as long as 30 days after they have ingested marijuana.  The way the law was written, a person could be charged with a drug DUI even if they consumed marijuana 30 days ago.  As you can see, the old law was irrational. In making its decision to modify the law, the court determined that Arizona legislature’s goal in establishing DUI laws is to prevent impaired driving.  Because there is scientific data showing that Carboxy-THC is non-impairing, in Arizona a person can no longer be charged with a drug DUI if there is only Carboxy-THC in their system.

Arizona DUI Significance

This outcome was a significant win for the citizens of Arizona.  The old law was unjust and unfair for not only the community, but for people who have a medical marijuana prescription.