Attorney says AZ marijuana DUI law is 'absurd'
POSTED: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 12:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 12:04am
Phoenix, AZ (KPHO) — Arizona's DUI laws could be changing if the state Supreme Court agrees to hear a case about marijuana.
As the books read right now, anyone could be charged with driving under the influence if they have smoked marijuana within the last month.
A Phoenix attorney is petitioning the state Supreme Court to make the DUI laws more specific.
Eighteen states, including Arizona, have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Colorado and Washington allow recreational use for anyone.
Phoenix attorney Michael Alarid says Arizona's DUI laws have not kept up with the loosening of restrictions on marijuana.
"The courts are supposed to interpret statutes as to avoid absurd results," said Alarid, who is with the law firm of Kimerer and Derrick. "It's possible in Arizona to be convicted of DUI when, in fact, a blood test proves a person is not impaired."
Alarid is fighting to overturn a client's 2010 DUI conviction on the grounds that his client was not high or drunk when he was pulled over for making an unsafe lane change.
The issue is complicated, but it boils down to what an officer is looking for in determining if a person should be charged with a DUI. An officer can force you to submit a blood test if you are suspected of DUI. That test would reveal the presence of alcohol and THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana.
The blood test would also reveal the presence of a metabolite called Carboxy-THC, which can remain in a person's blood stream for up to a month after smoking marijuana.
"Carboxy is not an active metabolite, meaning its non-psychoactive. It has no effect on the brain and does not cause impairment," said Alarid.
Even if Carboxy-THC is the only thing a person tests positive for, they can still be charged with DUI in Arizona. Alarid said it's a sign that the DUI statutes have not kept up with the changing societal acceptability and legality of marijuana smoking.
"Back in the 90s when those Court of Appeals decisions were handed down, marijuana was a completely illicit substance. Illegal in every way," Alarid said.
Alarid petitioned the state Supreme Court last week. It could be a couple months before it is learned if justices will agree to hear the case.