Marijuana DUI Rules Just Got Tougher

Arizona DUI laws are very strict and cover drug-related impairment as well as alcohol-related impairment.  Even though new marijuana legislation is being passed in other states, it is important to remember that it is still illegal to use marijuana in Arizona.  If you are caught driving while under the influence of marijuana, you could face DUI charges as well as drug charges.  If you are arrested for a marijuana-related DUI, the length of time since you used marijuana and how it has metabolized can have a big impact on your case.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most prevalent cannabinoid produced in Cannabis sativa and the one mainly responsible for the effects experienced after smoking or consuming marijuana.  Once introduced into the body, THC rapidly oxidizes into its main active metabolite: 11-hydroxy-THC.  11-hydroxy-THC then oxidizes further into 11-nor-Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid, otherwise known as THC-COOH or carboxy-THC.  THC-COOH remains in fat tissues of the body long after any effects of smoking or consuming marijuana have worn off due to being highly lipid soluble but does not cause any of the effects associated with marijuana use.

Previously, the presence of THC-COOH without any other metabolites of TCH in the blood could be used as a defense against a marijuana DUI charge.  The statute which governs drug-related DUI offenses is Arizona Revised Statute § 28-1381.A3 and reads as follows:

A. It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state under any of the following circumstances:

3. While there is any drug defined in section 13-3401 or its metabolite in the person’s body.

The argument was based on a reading of the statute which stated that it makes no mention of secondary metabolites or metabolites of metabolites as they apply to Driving Under the Influence.  Because THC-COOH is a metabolite of 11-hydroxy-THC, which is itself the metabolite of THC, THC-COOH qualifies as a secondary of THC.

Because of the confusion this was causing, the State of Arizona filed a Special Action and the Court of Appeals just released a Memo Decision broadly interpreting ARS § 28-1381.A3 to include all metabolites and secondary metabolites.  This means that if you drive with THC-COOH in your system and are pulled over, you could be arrested for DUI even if you do not feel impaired.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug-related DUI, it is important to have an experienced DUI attorney on your side.  At Oracle Law Group Office, P.C., we have veteran DUI attorneys who want to handle your case and guide you through this difficult time.  If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI, every day counts.  Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.  At Oracle Law Group Office, we listen, we care, and we want to help.

The Legal Jargon: Arizona Revised Statute § 28-1381.A3


Mayo Clinic, Mayo Medical Laboratories, THCM/84284 Clinical: 11-nor-Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol-9-Carboxylic Acid (Carboxy-THC), Meconium, available at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/84284 (last visited November 7, 2012)

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