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Marijuana Recent Court Developments

In 2010, Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act to approve medical marijuana use for those with debilitating conditions such as cancer, muscle spasms and chronic pain.  Since 2010, over 36,000 Arizona residents have obtained licenses to smoke or grow marijuana.

In a recent state court ruling, a judge upheld Arizona’s medical marijuana law as constitutional.  The case was appealed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, however, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery recently requested that the case bypass the Court of Appeals and be transferred directly to the Arizona Supreme Court. A direct transfer to the Supreme Court would have provided the state with a final decision much sooner.

According to the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, Arizona needs a final interpretation of the law as soon as possible. On Tuesday, however, the Arizona Supreme Court Justices denied County Attorney Montgomery’s request but failed to comment on the refusal to take the case.

Although Arizona’s law makes it legal for licensed persons to purchase medical marijuana, under Arizona Revised Statute 28-1381, a person driving a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana or with any “drug or metabolite of a drug” may be found guilty of DUI.  According to a recent Court of Appeals ruling, a person may be found guilty of DUI if he has either the active marijuana compound known as TCH or the inactive compound known as Carboxy-THC in his system at the time of arrest.

However, in certain cases, according to Arizona Revised Statute 36-2812, a qualifying patient may assert the medical purpose for the marijuana use as an affirmative defense to any prosecution of a marijuana involved offense.

The medical purpose defense will be presumed valid if the accused can provide evidence of the following:

(1)  A physician, who has a bona fide physician-patient relationship with the accused, completed a full assessment of the patient’s current medical condition and medical history. In the physician’s professional opinion, the patient will benefit from the marijuana use for treatment of the patient’s debilitating medical condition or symptoms related to the patient’s condition.

(2)  The qualifying patient, or his caregiver, was not in possession of marijuana in an amount in excess of that reasonably necessary to treat the patient’s medical condition or symptoms.

(3)  The marijuana acquisition, possession and use were for the sole purpose of treating the patient’s debilitating medical condition.

If the patient can provide proof to the above conditions, he will not be subject to discipline by the court and will not lose his right to possess and use the medical marijuana.

Without proof of an affirmative defense, the penalties for DUI of marijuana are similar to those that apply to a person found guilty of DUI of alcohol and can include jail time, fines, community service and probation

If you have been arrested for DUI, contact the Phoenix Arizona DUI defense attorneys at Oracle Law Group Office P.C.