Since the passage of Arizona Prop 207, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over, the state has secured funding to combat an issue of increasing importance in its eyes: driving while high. While recreational marijuana is now legal in Arizona, driving impaired with weed in your system is against the law, and officers are cracking down on marijuana-related DUI.
Driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana is harder to prove than a DUI involving alcohol. The body metabolizes tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical behind marijuana’s psychological effects, differently than it metabolizes alcohol. Therefore, a sober driver who regularly uses recreational marijuana will likely test positive for THC—even if they have not used marijuana that day. Sobriety tests for alcohol are imperfect but far more intuitive: Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tends to be an accurate measure of drunkenness.
"We want to try to rule out if they do have a controlled substance in their system - if that was a factor with whether or not they were impaired as a driver," said Lauren Evans, PIO, Avondale Police Department (APD), in conversation with ABC15 Arizona.
Thus, the Department of Public Safety has received over $1 million to address the complexities of marijuana DUIs. Funds will be split between the Highway Patrol Division and State Crime Lab to:
- Hire more trained phlebotomists;
- Hire more trained drug recognition experts;
- Streamline the analysis of THC samples obtained in the field; and
- Reduce DUI lab testing turnarounds.
ABC15 Arizona reported that drugged driving arrests increased by 519% statewide from 2009 to 2019. AZ Prop 207 did not pass until November 2020.
It is important to remember that an increase in arrests does not equate to an increase in the prevalence of driving under the influence of a particular substance. It is very common for sober motorists to be wrongly charged with, and even convicted of, a DUI.
At MayesTelles PLLC, our Phoenix defense attorneys protect the rights of those charged with DUIs. Remember, a charge is not the same as conviction: There is still time to act to protect yourself and your future. If you are facing charges for driving while high, call MayesTelles PLLC at (602) 428-7104 for a free and confidential consultation.