MARIJUANA: How You Can Still Be Convicted Of A DUI Even If You’re Not High

Arizona approved Proposition 203 in 2010, allowing state residents with limited medical conditions to use marijuana for treatment. Those who opposed Proposition 203 argued that this was the first step to full legislation, which arguably is very accurate. It is highly likely that recreational marijuana use will be an initiated constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot.

Now that you’ve been given a crash course on Arizona and its relationship with marijuana, how does this affect your use of marijuana and the law, specifically DUIs? First, Arizona has a zero-tolerance law against drivers who are “under the influence.” This means you better understand the law and the consequences before taking a toke and stepping into your vehicle.

Section 28-1381 of the Arizona Revised Statutes is the applicable statute to this topic. Its caption reads “Driving or being in control while under the influence.” In summary, it provides that it is unlawful for a person to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana. What is worth noting is that you don’t actually have to be “high” to be convicted of a DUI under this statute.

The term “under the influence” and its use under the statute is the focal point of this short discussion, as I will clarify its interpretation and application. “Under the influence,” in the context of DUIs and marijuana use, is interpreted to be applicable in two ways: 1) impairment and 2) presumed impairment. Clearly, you may face a DUI conviction if the government proves that you were impaired – meaning, the prosecutor shows that the officer had reasonable grounds to believe that your ability to operate a vehicle was compromised due to marijuana use. In the alternate, your blood results show traces of metabolite, a molecule found in marijuana. What makes this discussion useful to marijuana users is that blood tests cannot determine  when someone used marijuana because metabolites can linger in the bloodstream for days. So, even if you haven’t used marijuana for several days and you’re as sober as can be, you can still be convicted of a DUI for being presumed impaired.