Now that medical marijuana has been legal in Mesa for a few years, it is time to take a fresh look at issues pertaining to medical marijuana use and driving. While you cannot be arrested for the use of medical marijuana in Arizona, if you drive under the influence of marijuana, you can very well be charged with a DUI.
So what has changed since medical marijuana has become a thing in Arizona and what do consumers and law enforcement personnel be aware of?
Here is an updated list of your most common medical marijuana and driving questions and answers:
What is the current state of medical marijuana use across the U.S.?
As of January 2016, 23 states allow the use of medical marijuana, while four more states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) have legalized marijuana for recreational use. In addition, sixteen states are having something in the works to legalize recreational marijuana use.
Law enforcement is facing new challenges.
With the legalization of medical and/or recreational marijuana use it has become necessary to find new ways on how to detect if a driver is impaired or intoxicated from marijuana use. As it is well-known, Mesa police officers are utilizing field sobriety tests and breathalyzers for alcohol detection and to determine if a drunk driving charge is indicated.
While there are no breathalyzers for marijuana use are on the market as of yet, Swedish scientists are working on developing a breathalyzer that can not only detect marijuana, but also drugs such as cocaine, heroine and others.
Currently the only way to tell for sure if a driver is under the influence of marijuana is through a urine or blood test, both of which are often viewed to be excessively intrusive. Plus processing them can take weeks or even months.
Marijuana DUI Penalties in Arizona
Your first Marijuana DUI offense counts as a misdemeanor. If convicted you will facing similar penalties as if you were convicted of drunk driving. Sentences may include but are not limited to the following:
- 1 to 10 days in jail;
- Driver’s License suspension of up to 90 days;
- Mandatory drug screening, education, counseling or treatment;
- Fines and fees of$1250.00;
- Probation or Community Service
Your second Marijuana DUI offense is still a misdemeanors. But the penalties are going to be more severe:
- Minimum 3 months jail, with 30 days consecutive;
- Driver’s License Revocation for 1 year;
- $3,000.00 fines, fees, costs, assessments;
- Mandatory drug education, screening, counseling, or treatment;
- Probation or community service
Finally, your third offense if it occurs within 7 years of the previous will be charged as an Aggravated DUI (Felony):
- 4 months in prison for third offense;
- 8 months in prison for subsequent offense after three;
- $4,000.00 fines, fees, costs, assessments;
- Driver’s license revocation for three years;
- Possible forfeiture of vehicle;
- Mandatory drug education, counseling or treatment;
- Parole, probation, and community service
Marijuana Driving Laws Across the U.S:
Eighteen U.S. states have currently a zero tolerance or non-zero per se for marijuana, nine states have zero tolerance laws for THC or a metabolite(marijuana metabolite can take up to six weeks to clear from your system if you are a heavy user), three more states have zero tolerance for THC but not metabolites while five more have specific limits for THC and Colorado has what is knows as a reasonable interference law for THC.
How do Marijuana and Alcohol Use Stack up on the Road?
A study release by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined that driving after marijuana consumption does not make you more likely to crash on Arizona roads. That it some really big news, especially considering that marijuana related DUI offenses are not treated any differently than alcohol related ones. This does not mean that marijuana use doesn’t impact your senses, however,
“In the study, testing positive for marijuana was defined as having delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinal (THC) in the system. The number of legal drug users and illegal drug users involved in crashes was statistically insignificant.” thinkprogress.org
Other Considerations and Need to Know Facts about Medical Marijuana Use and Possession in Arizona
- While it is legal to use medical marijuana, due to a 2012 revision of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act known as the “campus-ban statute” it is illegal to be used or be in possession of medical marijuana on college campuses, correctional facilities, school buses, preschools, high schools and public spaces. It is irrelevant whether you have a card or not.
- if you have a valid medical marijuana card, you can use it legally, even while you are on probation.
- medical marijuana use is reserved for those in “severe and chronic pain”
- you are allowed to receive 2.5 oz of medical marijuana every two weeks
- patients and caregivers are subjected to fingerprinting for law enforcement and sign a statement that they will not distribute marijuana to non-patients.
Clearly medical marijuana DUIs and their implications are still in their infancy. There is lots that still needs to be worked out. For example, is it fair to charge someone with medical marijuana DUI if it takes much longer to leave your body than alcohol? What are the implications of insufficient field testing methods?
If you or a loved one have been charged with a medical marijuana DUI in Mesa or nearby communities, the experienced Mesa DUI attorneys with My AZ lawyers can help you. Contact us today to learn more about our DUI defense strategies and talk to us first-before you talk to the police.
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