Medical Marijuana and Driving in Arizona

medical marijuana and drivingMedical marijuana is legal in Arizona, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be pulled over for driving while under the influence of medical marijuana. It’s been eight years since the state passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), but there still might be some confusion around its use and the laws surrounding it.

Despite being legal to use, medical marijuana can still impair your ability to operate a vehicle. It’s just like alcohol in that you’re free to use it, but you must use sense when choosing whether or not to get behind the wheel of a car.

Arizona law on driving and drugs

Arizona law defines Cannibis as: “The resin extracted from any part of a plant of the genus cannabis, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of such plant, its seeds or its resin. Cannabis does not include oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any fiber, compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the mature stalks of such plant except the resin extracted from the stalks or any fiber, oil or cake or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”

A medical marijuana card is not always a get out of jail free card. That’s because you still must follow the laws of not driving while impaired by medical marijuana. You’ll be responsible for proving that the amount of the substance in your body was insufficient to impair your driving.

Marijuana is difficult to deal with for a DUI because it can show up in your system many days and even weeks after use. Therefore, it might no longer be providing any sort of impairment, but you’ll test positive for it regardless. This presents a serious challenge for those who have a medical marijuana card.

Your rights during a traffic stop

A police officer will begin observing and documenting your behavior before even pulling you over. In this case, the officer might ask you if you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You should know that you are not required to answer this question as it is your constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

If the Arizona officer suspects a DUI, you’ll be asked to complete a field sobriety test. These tests are known to not be very reliable and some sober drivers can’t pass these tests. Therefore, you can choose not to participate in a field sobriety test if you so choose.

The next step would be a portable breath test (PBT). This is a hand-held breathalyzer unit that is known to lack accuracy in evaluating a person’s blood alcohol content. Because of that, it isn’t admissible in court.

However, if the officer still suspects impaired driving, they might order a blood and urine test. This means you’ll be transported to a facility where these tests are completed.

Penalties for marijuana DUI

Any previous offenses and the severity of the DUI will dictate your total penalty, but marijuana DUIs include the following:

  • Jail time
  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Drug counseling and treatment
  • Fines
  • Community service

Your first and second offense are treated as misdemeanors while your third offense or an aggravated DUI results in a felony. A felony is permanently on your record and can affect your ability to get a job or complete other large life events.

It’s in your best interest to avoid being convicted of a DUI, regardless of the circumstances. Whether your marijuana DUI charges are linked to medical marijuana or recreational use, you should seek legal counsel before moving forward with proceedings to ensure the best possible outcome.

Click here for information on drug manufacturing laws in Arizona.