Marijuana DUIs prove more complex than alcohol

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 The recently passed Proposition 207 prohibits driving while impaired by marijuana to the slightest degree. So, how are Arizona’s law enforcement officers detecting such impairment and what new tools are they using? We asked Marc Lamber, a local attorney with Fennemore Craig. 

Increase in Injuries Under Prop 207

Proposition 207 allows anyone over the age of 21 to use marijuana recreationally. Now, Lamber is seeing an uptick in people being injured after someone gets behind the wheel while under the influence of marijuana. “Just as much as drinking and driving is socially unacceptable, the same should be true for marijuana use,” Lamber said.

Determining Impairment

Although the penalties for drinking and driving and using marijuana and driving are the same, the difference lies in determining if someone is impaired. Technologies are available to determine if someone is under the influence of alcohol, such as a breathalyzer. Although the technologies for determining the impairment of marijuana exist, they are not yet out for the public.

Law enforcement officers are looking for the same signs of driving under the influence of alcohol. For example, reckless driving and what drivers are saying to officers. If someone doesn’t pass a sobriety test, officers can now quickly issue a warrant and draw blood. From that result, they are determining if the driver is under the influence of marijuana. “It’s very hard to determine if someone is impaired just based upon a blood reading,” Lamber said.

Another issue is how long marijuana stays in someone’s system. Unlike alcohol, marijuana could stay in someone’s system for days, which Lamber says could lead to problems.

“If someone used [marijuana] two days earlier, and they’re pulled over, and they have marijuana in their blood, they have THC, the psychoactive ingredient, does that mean they’re impaired? Not necessarily. Again, with alcohol that’s not an issue,” Lamber said.

Marc Lamber, Attorney, Fennemore Craig

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