Arizona medical marijuana users can face jail time or have their licenses suspended for driving with cannabis in their system even if they are not impaired, according to a series of court decisions including a new one from the state Court of Appeals.
The ruling stems from a case involving Travis Lance Darrah, a medical marijuana cardholder, who was pulled over in 2011 and charged with DUI.
The Mesa jury acquitted Darrah of DUI but found him guilty of a misdemeanor charge of driving with an illegal substance in his system.
John Tatz, Darrah’s attorney, said his client faces a day in jail, $1,500 in fines, required substance abuse help and a one-year suspension of his driver’s license for the conviction.
Darrah has appealed the ruling contending being an authorized cannabis user under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act protects him from such prosecution.
Two Arizona trial courts — and a new decision from the Arizona Court of Appeals — disagree.
They ruled there is nothing in the voter-approved state medical marijuana law that exempts legalized users from DUI laws.
John Balitis, an attorney with the law office of Fennemore Craig PC in Phoenix, said there are all kinds of protections built in the state marijuana laws.
“The act includes all sorts of workplace protections and protections for people leasing properties,” he said.
There just aren’t legal exemptions or protections when it comes to DUIs and driving with active marijuana ingredients in the operator’s system.
“The proposition just doesn’t say that,” Balitis said. He said that creates a big legal issue for authorized cardholders.
The trial judge would not even allow the jury to hear testimony that Darrah was a state authorized medical marijuana user.
“That just doesn’t seem right,” Tatz said of the court rulings and interpretations of DUI and medical marijuana laws.
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