How to Avoid a Marijuana DUI in Zero-Tolerance Arizona
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.
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.
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.