How to Avoid a Marijuana DUI in Zero-Tolerance Arizona

Categories: Weed

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For the millions of people who now use marijuana legally under their states' laws, driving in Arizona is technically a crime.

Motorists with pot metabolites in their bloodstreams who want to avoid a marijuana DUI -- which comes with nasty fines and a one-year suspension of driving privileges, instead of the regular 90 days for booze DUIs -- may want to consult our quick primer below.

See also: Riding High: Arizona's Zero-Tolerance Stance on Pot and Driving

As our cover story this week points out, state law prohibits driving with marijuana or "its metabolite in the person's body." In February, the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the "zero-tolerance" rule in a case that's now being appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Because the appellate court ruled that "its metabolite" could be plural as well as singular, even an inert metabolite of marijuana's active ingredient, THC, which can stay in the body for weeks after the last use of the drug, counts under the proscription.

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Image: www.sodahead.com
Cops say they only bust motorists for a marijuana DUI if the person is exhibiting signs of impairment. But sometimes police are overly aggressive in their hunt for dangerous drivers, or just plain wrong about what they believe are signs of marijuana intoxication. In those cases, the suspected impaired driver will have his or her blood drawn. If the blood shows any sign of pot metabolites, the state can obtain a conviction.

We drive, and therefore do not want to encourage other motorists to drive while stoned, wasted, fried, zombified, or any other adjective that implies a high chance of hitting us, or you, gentle readers.

Motorists are not allowed to be "impaired to the slightest degree" in Arizona. However, as every cop who's been to a happy hour knows, it's not against the law to have a few drinks and get behind the wheel, even if you feel the effects of those drinks, as long as you're not impaired.

The same logic may or may not be applicable to marijuana. Science isn't yet able to predict how impaired a person might be based on how much marijuana was ingested. Another way to put that: Some people seem to be very impaired after consuming a little pot, while others don't seem to be impaired at all after consuming a lot of pot.

Putting aside the difficult questions those facts raise when it comes to enforcing highway safety, Arizona's zero-tolerance law means that someone who appears high to an officer, but hasn't used pot in days, is at risk of a marijuana DUI. Here's what we learned about preventing a conviction or getting stopped in the first place:

Click through to the next page for tips on how to avoid a pot DUI.

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60 comments
Noneya
Noneya

I LOVE how they just completely ignore the fact that a huge portion of the population is currently on prescribed pharmaceutical narcotics/phetamines/opiates.

bigrobstercraws
bigrobstercraws

Green tongue?!  He said that too.  My tongue was yellow.  It's the coating from the nicotine gum I chew.  I seriously celebrate anytime a cop in AZ dies on duty.  I know that sounds wrong.  But, every single interaction with a cop, both off and on-duty in this state only confirms my hatred for them.

bigrobstercraws
bigrobstercraws

I just got a pot DUI tonight.  I was sober.  I have a medical marijuana card.  I smoked a bowl at 5 PM to keep my dinner down.  Then I went on a 1.5 mile walk with my dog, before going to lift weights for 45 minutes prior to a 3 mile run.  I've never been able to do all that stoned.  Who can?  Like I said, I felt no high when I got pulled over around 930 PM.  The cop finds a nug in my trunk, asks me for my card so I show it to him.  I wasn't smart enough to read this before tonite so I took a field test and gave blood.  The cop said I seemed a little unbalanced at the start of some of the tests.  Well, when you have leg day at the gym and follow it up with a run, your legs are going to be sore.  He said I look high too.  WTF?! people have been telling me that years before I even smoked pot. 

I was dumb for driving without current tags.  My poor rear end finally saved up to get those tomorrow.  I got sent away from the MVD today because I got there too late.  That's what I was pulled over for.  Not impaired driving, no mistakes on the road. 

I seriously hate the Gilbert PD and wish every cop there death on duty.

Ddoz
Ddoz

I had a friend get pulled over the day after he'd smoked for making an illegal U-Turn. The cop insisted his tongue was green, and took him in for a blood test. So fucking stupid. Let's punish people for being responsible about it, fucking pigs.

latchkeykid
latchkeykid

I think if your a stoner you already know how to drive without being detected so it's a non- issue to those who use cannabis on a regular basis. What would the statistics on persons being pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol say from 1950 to present day compared with persons being pulled over for driving under the influence of cannabis during the same years look like? People drive impaired all the time, impaired vision, impaired hearing. Because we don't understand what it is to be impaired under the influence of cannabis doesn't mean we have to associate being impaired under the influence of cannabis as something dangerous.. Simply because cannabis isn't dangerous. All the bullshit rhetoric about the kids !!!the kids!! keep it away from the kids!! If cannabis has a contributed to death record toll of absolute zero, then explain to me the danger. No one is talking selling cannabis to young children or making it available to them for recreation, yet I know some mothers and fathers with autistic children who marvel at its affects of inducing calming with alertness. Cannabis is not a joke and no laughing matter when it comes to the seriousness of its health benefiting properties. It will be interesting to see which cities and counties start racking up the penalties with this law. Would I be guessing that the majority will be of those with a darker skin tone and I'm not talking after hitting the tanning bed. Who knows I could be wrong but current statistics clearly show who's being given the grand trophy for most  people in the nation to be unjustly harassed and imprisoned for cannabis.  Can anyone explain to me why if there was never any "real" issue with cops pulling people over for driving under the influence of marijuana before knowing all the people that were smoking in our country then why all of a sudden since it's becoming more legalized do we as citizens get to be harassed even more for it? Oh money, never mind lost me train of thought for a moment. Ah I get it, to classify it as dangerous to the public gives the cops the ability to pull you over and garnish your wages to keep the circus floating. Gigs up babylon, this is a stick up. This law won't last and neither will those on the "dark side of the force". You can only deny truth for so long and then eventually, you have to face it.

OldUncleDave
OldUncleDave

Best way of all, imo, is to move out of Arizona.

hipcowboy420
hipcowboy420

I have been Smoking Cannabis for 44 years and I have Never had or SEEN a GREEN TONGUE!

sedonashirpa
sedonashirpa

This will eventually make it to the SC and the issue of IMPAIRMENT will be the key to the 0 tolerance laws being over-turned.  If you're not impaired you've broken no laws....It's as simple as that. Being in possession of marijuana metabolites (in your blood) is not a crime either...

In the meantime, do not drive for at least 4 hours after any use.

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

Btw i have never seen a green tongue from pot either. But the article states it was notated in "several" arrest reports. Weird. Maybe some weird new type? idk im just asking.

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

The number you are searching for is "1"! 1 point.. That was it! Im not prepared to protest against marijuana based on the 1 point! In fact, I think there are some upsides to marijuana and im more of the opinion that we have far bigger issues to worry about than a lil pop. My sole point..the only point I was trying to make is that it was improper for part of this article to contain information trying to help those who are under the influence..and driving. Im aware he cationed against doing so. Im aware there is an unfair glitch in the laws. However, the article ALSO gave advice as to how to avoid detection when driving under the influence and what to do if stopped while under the influence. That is THE point.

Kelli Hurren
Kelli Hurren

I'll make you a sign!!! You sound like something to do. Have you seen how many "points" you've tried to make here?

Kelli Hurren
Kelli Hurren

I have NEVER seen marijuana turn someone's tongue green ever!!!

dkessler4
dkessler4

I would support having video tapes made of the roadside sobriety test as a good way to stop both overzealous prosecutors and defense attorneys when making a determination of DUI.

dkessler4
dkessler4

If I were sitting on a jury and that was all the information that they had to convict, I could not convict another Arizona driver for that.  Jury nullification is certainly called for with this cruel and unjust law.  If the roadside sobriety test fails to show impairment, maybe that person really is not impaired.   

JoeArpaioFan
JoeArpaioFan

Montgomery is nothing more than a low life piece of shit.

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

I would not. I understand that part. I actually agree pot should have the same clauses other classes of drugs have. For the most part beer and pot are pretty much the same thing to me. As far as how they affect a person, Both are short term, little dammage to the brain etc etc. But how brite would you think i was if i said, Hey, you shouldnt drink and drive...but if you do, here are a couple tricks you can try? I understand that wasnt the focus of the article...but you DID go there!

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

Just because they look for a "green tongue" doesn't mean marijuana actually causes a green tongue. That's just ridiculous.

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

No. The whole point is that the no-tolerance DUI laws in Arizona are BS. Marijuana stays in your system for weeks, but you wouldn't say you were high for a week after smoking a joint, would you?

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

Maybe your article should have just been about NOT driving under the influance...and left out the other stuff? Maybe? Ya think maybe?

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

Good job posting the part that DOESNT tell people how to avoid arrests and prossecution. How bout you repost the stuff below it that DOES!?! Its right there, a lil lower, no no a lil lower. Yup THERE it is. Right in your article.

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

It's marijuana for god's sake, not a green apple Jolly Rancher.

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

"A green tongue"... Yes, as mentioned in YOUR article..cops have stated to you that they look for a green tongue. Maybe you should read your article. Its in there, TWICE!

Jen Imler
Jen Imler

Is this an article about jolly ranchers? That's the silliest picture ever.

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

... And the first four tips are as follows: * Don't use marijuana. Gotta say it. No metabolites, no conviction. * Get educated: Know that marijuana metabolites can stay in your body for a month or longer. If you used marijuana legally under the recreational marijuana laws of Colorado or Washington, or under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, realize that it will be weeks before you can drive legally in Arizona. * Don't drive while using alcohol or other drugs. Studies show that driving can be impaired after just a few drinks. If you get pulled over because you're driving stupidly with a .05 BAC, it's possible that an officer may order a drug test that reveals marijuana metabolites, making your DUI case a lot less defensible despite the low alcohol reading. * Worth repeating: Don't drive on drugs. In the roughly 200 pot-DUI and accident reports we looked through for this week's feature article, plus the many dozens of blood-test results of suspected impaired drivers in serious crashes in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler, only one injury crash -- in Scottsdale -- was believed by police to be due to a driver impaired only by cannabis. Most of the impaired-driver crashes involved booze. But it seemed like a significant number of drivers had half a pharmacy in their bloodstreams. Others had used illegal drugs. Some studies suggest that illicit drugs like cocaine or meth can impact driving more than marijuana. The police reports revealed to us that driving with drugs that end in "-lam" is probably a terrible idea. In Phoenix last year, there was only one injury accident (and no fatals) in which a suspected, non-alcohol-using impaired driver tested positive only for a single drug, and it wasn't pot: It was midazolam, a.k.a. Versed, a light anesthetic that causes sleepiness and acute memory loss.

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

"It seems pretty clear.." coming from a pot head is amazingly ironic since you use it for the main purpose of making your mind UNclear for an hour or so. (Kinda teasing here, im not about to stand on a corner protesting pot)

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

New Times: The green tongue is a sign of RECENT use..and you advised people to cover it up..hence the whole, you are an irresponsible ass telling people how to drive under the influence and get away with it thing!!

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

This seems pretty clear: "We drive, and therefore do not want to encourage other motorists to drive while stoned, wasted, fried, zombified, or any other adjective that implies a high chance of hitting us, or you, gentle readers."

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

David im not worried about IT killing me. In fact i smoked my way through high school! haha But i can tell you I wouldnt have been very safe if I were driving next to me back then! ha

Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

New times: I read every single word. And what i saw was a couple mentions of not driving under the influence...followed by, use visine, drive straight, and refuse a road side test to beat the wrap. Did YOU not read your "article"???

April Bustamante
April Bustamante

I've tried to explain that to a few friends who have their Marijuana cards but that don't believe me... Guess they're too high to listen. LOL!

Alexa Gibson
Alexa Gibson

This is terrible. I got a DUI for this when I had ZERO alcohol in my system. It doesn't matter if you think you're okay to drive, all that matters is the state is just trying to fuck people out of more money and cops get to keep going around and treating innocent people like shit.

deadcherries
deadcherries

"The officer who suspects impairment may ask a driver to stand on one leg for 30 seconds or perform other sobriety tests. If you're sober, you should pass the test."

Is there any sobriety test that doesn't infringe on  people with physical disability?
-reminded of the sobriety test from The Man with Two Brains where Steve Martin performs acrobatics while juggling and singing-

David Jennings
David Jennings

They actually repeatedly said the best way is to not use at all, but since they recognize the law as being unfair and abused by the police, they were giving some pretty basic pointers than any toker already knows. This was more satire than serious. Lighten up and light up Gary, it wont kill you.

marcy
marcy

While I completely agree that you should never tell a cop anything more than what the law requires, you don't have to "plead the fifth".  That is reserved for legal proceedings.  If a cop asks you where you are going, if you have had anything to drink or whether you have a medical pot card you are not only not required to answer, you aren't required to explain why.  Just tell the cop you would like to be on your way and have no interest in answering any questions.  If he asks what your address is, age or date of birth just tell him it is all right there on the driver's license you gave him, getting pulled over doesn't mean you have to play 20 questions.  

There is no "passing" field sobriety test, you aren't being scored.  Any issue during a FST will result in the cop being able to claim you were impaired and you can be certain that they will embellish their report.  So never, ever, agree to take a field sobriety test.  Any cop who tells your 90% of people "pass" the test is lying, cops won't administer the test unless they think someone is impaired and the ONLY purpose for the test is to collect evidence against you.  If they think you are impaired and you take a FST then they WILL find something you did during the test that they will insist is evidence of impairment.  

Don't roll your window down, no reason to give Officer Friendly the opening to stick his fat mutton head through your window to spot/smell something, or claim he did.  Roll it down a few inches, enough to be able to communicate and pass your driver's license/registration/insurance to the officer.

I'd also strongly advise activating your cell phone's video/audio recording any time you interact with the police.  It is your only protection from the embellishment virtually all cops engage in when writing up a report. It also tends to make cops more respectful of your rights.  Be polite but refuse to give up your right to remain silent.

If you have passengers in the car with you, it is appropriate to remind them that they should keep their mouths shut as well.  

Lastly, learn to drive responsibly and you'll greatly lessen your chances of getting pulled over in the first place.



Gary Waterman
Gary Waterman

Did New Times REALLY just give advice to people on how to not get caught while driving under the influance? You don't see that as a slightly disgusting show of complete ignorance and irresponsability? I suppose its ok for stoned people to kill someone... as long as they can get away with it!!! I doubt anyone would argue that it would be a bad idea to instruct drunks on how to work the system. Thanks for yet another example of "Pot Head Logic".

anon
anon

"for the millions..."  isn't it more like thousands?

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

@dkessler4  

Agreed, so put recorders in your car and record them yourself, since even if the police were required to do that, you would have a lot of them not captured on camera do to 'equipment malfunctions'

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Phoenix New Times ... the way that Addle-brained Cop Superstition started was that some suspect attempted to EAT and swallow the evidence, turning his tongue green when the cop observed it.

Ever since then, the lying pigs have been regurgitating that "observation" as part of their reasonable suspicion.

Not much different than the phony "banana peel" rumors that were circulating in the late 60's.


Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

@deadcherries  

Not really and that has been brought up in court many times. Technically there are some, but they are nowhere near as accurate, not that the standard tests are accurate either, but in the end it does not matter, since in most cases if you claim a physical disability and the cop thinks you are drunk or under the influence, they are just going to take you for a breathalyzer or blood test - i.e. Officer Judgement is the overall deciding factor until actual scientific tests are done.

I have no physical disabilities and I would have trouble passing a stand on 1 foot with the other extended in front of you for 30 seconds test. In general the RST is a bunch of bullshit, which is why most lawyers tell people that if you are not drunk, push for the breathalyzer or blood test by refusing the RST. Science and hard numbers are your friend then.

Always opt for hard facts over officer opinion.

2sides2it
2sides2it

@marcy  Well, the advice probably would not work well if you've run over a naked lady in the street and decided to take off.   Most impaired drivers clearly know they are impaired which explains why they flee the scene often.   The major issue is would you be willing to entrust your safety or someone you care about safety to the sole judgement of all the pot smokers in Arizona?   My guess is that nobody would think that about a guy whose sucked down a six pack of beer either.   

All too often embellishment is not necessary when there are dead bodies strewn all over the roadway.   The sick feeling a the pit of the stomach has to be experienced to appreciate the mere prospect of a traffic death notification.  You know the best thing is to bow out gracefully when your understanding of a topic is woefully lacking.   People get convicted all the time without doing FSTs, pleading  "the fifth" and half a dozen other last minute tricks to get out of the DUI hole.   The problem for those folks is that they thought they weren't going to ever hurt anyone.

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

@marcy  

All great points and great advice. I was actually writing something similar but you beat me too it.

Above all else, remember that the only information or actions you are legally required to give/take during a traffic stop are your drivers license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. 

You do not have to invoke your right to remain silent, it's your right and you always have it, USE IT. The vast majority of police officers cases are made for them by statements from the 'subject'.

I also STRONGLY recommend to everyone to spend $35-50 on ebay for a dash cam recorder. You can get them easily and they are just as good as the ones the cops use and as Marcy states, are YOUR ONLY defense in court - the cops are not there to defend you or provide you with a defense, their videos often get 'lost' or have 'equipment malfunctions' that make their video unattainable, which means it's your word against the cop and the cop will win then.

I also recommend an app on your smartphone call Qik - Qik uploads the video to the internet immediately so the cops or whomever cannot delete it from the phone or make the phone have an 'accident'. Qik is free.

I recommend EVERYONE spend the money for a dashcam or even two. (I have two in my car - one facing forward and one facing the rear) - make sure they record audio as well

If the officer gets you out of the vehicle, LOCK THE CAR as you get out. This makes it a legal requirement to get a warrant and makes it more difficult for any vehicle mounted recorder to be messed with. 

And no, you do not have to advise the officer at any time that you are recording them. Nor do you have to answer them if they ask. Don't lie, just don't answer.

Great post Marcy.

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

@anon 

No, it's not, millions is accurate

dkessler4
dkessler4

@Flyer9753 @dkessler4 Thank you flyer.  I'm beginning to think that this would be a good idea for a number of reasons.  I understand that in Russia that they typically have car video cameras  and this was how so many people captured pictures of the meteor that flashed through the sky and crashed there.  Who would have thought that we would need something like that here as we are a "free" people, right?

dkessler4
dkessler4

@Flyer9753 @dkessler4  Thank you again.   I just ordered one and I do appreciate your suggestion.  I believe in honesty and I do believe that a video record helps keep everyone honest.

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

@dkessler4 @Flyer9753 

You are welcome.

They are great for all kinds of reasons, from police interactions to just catching that weird thing that happens before you can pull out your cell phone, like the Russian meteor and the recent cargo plane crash (CRAZY video there).

I own a company that has delivery vehicles on the road most of the day and all our vehicles have cameras in them. They catch some amazing things, from accidents to robberies - several of the video's from my companies cars have been used in accident investigations and the like. I tell all my drivers if they see something like a wreck or whatever, stop and give contact info to the police/involved parties so that if they need the video, we can get it to them.

They are also great for anti-theft and vehicle vandalism, which is why they got so popular in Russia.

I do agree, we should not need them and in respects to the police, there was a time when you could generally trust all LEO's, but that time is long gone. Not saying all LEO's are bad, but the ratio's of good to bad cops today is nowhere near as good as it used to be.

I see your 'free people' point, but I look at it the other way. That since we are a free people we can do this, whereas in many countries you can't. 

Just remember, freedom is not free and it takes everyone and tools like these recorders to keep us all free. :)

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