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AZ Supreme Court Rejects Presence of THC Metabolite as Proof of Drugged Driving

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors need proof a driver was impaired by his consumption of marijuana to convict of drugged driving. The presence of THC metabolites in the driver's blood is not enough.

The opinion, available here, states that medical evidence shows the presence of Carboxy-THC does not equate to impairment.

“Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as 28 to 30 days after ingestion, the state’s position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving anytime nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana,” Brutinel wrote. “Such a prohibition would apply even when the driver had no impairing substance in his or her body.”

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The state prosecutor and its expert witness agreed.

In arguments to the high court, Susan Luder, a deputy Maricopa County attorney, acknowledged that carboxy-THC, a secondary metabolite of marijuana, can show up in blood tests for a month after someone has used the drug. And her own expert witness said the presence of that metabolite does not indicate impairment.

The effect of the ruling:

The ruling most immediately affects the 40,000-plus Arizonans who are legal medical marijuana users. It means they will not be effectively banned from driving, given how long the metabolite, carboxy-THC, remains in the blood.

It also provides legal protection against impaired-driving charges for anyone else who drives and has used marijuana in the last 30 days — legal or otherwise — as well as provides a shield for those who might be visiting from Washington or Colorado, where recreational use of the drug is legal.

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