Arizona prosecutor applauds court ruling in medical pot DUI case

Nov 20, 2014, 8:16 AM | Updated: 8:17 am

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is happy about an appeals court ruling that says medical marijuana users can still be prosecuted for driving under the influence in Arizona.

The case involved a man who carries a medical marijuana card and was arrested for DUI in 2011. He was acquitted of that charge but convicted on a DUI law that bars people from driving while having a prohibited drug or its compound in their system.

The man claimed Arizona’s 2010 medical marijuana law made authorized users immune from prosecution. The court said no.

Valley attorney Craig Rosenstein said the state’s medical marijuana law is so poorly written it places a double standard on people following their doctors’ orders.

If a patient who was prescribed narcotic pain killers were pulled over by police and charged with DUI, “The person who had taken Vicodin can introduce at the trial that they had a prescription for Vicodin,” Rosenstein said. “That charge is gone.”

Montgomery said card holders should know better than to get behind the wheel after smoking pot.

“If you have a condition that calls for the use of marijuana and you have an active metabolite in your system that can cause impairing, why are you operating a car at that point?” he said.

Opponents of the ruling say some metabolites can remain in the system for 30 days, meaning they could be found even if someone hasn’t smoked pot for a month.

Montgomery said he doubts medical marijuana users would go that long between treatments.

“If you have a condition that permits you to get a medical marijuana card, why are you only using it once every 30 days? he said.

Courts and state legislatures throughout the United States are struggling with how to deal with holders of medical marijuana cards should they be pulled over for possible DUI.

Rosenstein is asking state lawmakers to amend the medical marijuana law with two words: “Affirmative defense.” With those words, he said Arizona is not advocating for impaired driving, or pushing a political agenda, but acting in a matter that is just and fair.

KTAR’s Holliday Moore contributed to this report.

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Arizona prosecutor applauds court ruling in medical pot DUI case