Arizona is one of the 23 states in the nation that has legalized medical marijuana use, but how far does that law go?
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s legal analyst Monica Lindstrom spoke with Mac and Gaydos Thursday about whether or not the presence of a medical marijuana card should be used as a defense in court.
The Arizona Supreme Court recently announced they will review an appeals court decision that said drivers found with marijuana in their system can be prosecuted under the law — even if they possess a medical marijuana card.
“I think that we’re going to see the law change to allow (medical marijuana cards) to be (used as a DUI defense),” Lindstrom said. “I don’t think it will happen anytime soon, but down the road we’re going to see that.”
Lindstrom said under Arizona’s DUI laws, drivers can get arrested for driving under the influence with an legal or illegal drug, even if they are impaired to the slightest degree.
“If you have a legal, valid prescription, you can drive with that drug in your system,” she said. “However, if that drug is impairing you, you can still get a DUI.”
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can stay in a user’s system for weeks. If a driver is found with it in their body, even if they have not used the drug recently, they still can get a DUI, Lindstrom said.
“It’s not about impairment,” she said. “(Defendants are) saying, ‘Because we have a statute that says you can get arrested and charged and convicted for a DUI with having that drug in your system, if you’re legally entitled to have that drug, as long as it’s not impairing your ability to drive, you should be able to use it as a defense.'”
The county attorney has argued that medical marijuana use is not prescribed by a doctor, like many pain medications would be, but only recommended.