The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the state could only prosecute motorists for driving under the influence of marijuana if a person is stoned during the traffic stop -- a controversial decision as states like Michigan fight to pass legislation to implement roadside saliva tests as a means for keeping marijuana users off the roads.
The verdict handed down by the state’s highest court overturned a recent decision by a state Court of Appeals that gave prosecutors the right to indict marijuana users on charges of DUI, even without significant proof that they were actually impaired at the time of their arrest.
In the past, some prosecutors put the word out that medical marijuana users should avoid driving because if they were caught, they would likely encounter DUI charges. These threats, of course, did not sit well with cannabis advocates who believed authorities were challenging their right to use the herb in accordance with the voter approved medical marijuana program.
However, the state Supreme Court verdict did not side with Arizona’s intimidation tactics. Their opinion states that while it is against the law for a person to operate a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, there can be no risk of prosecution for that offense simply based on a positive test result for a non-psychoactive compound.
Tuesday’s verdict stems from a case involving an Arizona man who was pulled over by police for speeding, and throughout a jagged course of police questioning, admitted to smoking marijuana on a previous night. Court records indicate that while blood tests did uncover marijuana compounds, none were for THC, which is the psychoactive compound associated with impairment.
Regardless, the man was charged with driving with the presence of a marijuana metabolite in his system.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the language of the statute used to prosecute the man is entirely too vague, and does not make the distinction between the marijuana metabolite that causes impairment and those that do not when establishing the necessity to pursue criminal charges.
This interpretation of the law "leads to absurd results,” wrote the high court justices. “Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver's system or whether it has any impairing effect."
Some opposing opinions were dealt after the verdict, most of which believed that the laws should not be changed and left up to the legislature for clarification.
Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in HIGH TIMES, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.