Is It Legal after Marijuana Consumption to Drive If You Hold a Medical Marijuana Card?
Interviewer: What about if you have a medical marijuana card, does that protect you and allow you to drive having marijuana in your system whether it is the active or inactive metabolite?
This Issue Is Being Argued in Arizona Appeals Court But the Medical Marijuana Card Is not a License to Drive after Marijuana Consumption
Mike Munoz: That’s a very debatable issue that’s going through the appeals courts now. The argument from the defense perspective is that the medical marijuana card should give you the ability to use medical marijuana for those purposes. It should be a defense in marijuana DUI cases.
Most courts are ruling that medical marijuana card is different than a prescription and most courts are not allowing that, defense. For people who do and need marijuana for medical purposes, those cards are advisable. They still should get those cards, but the medical marijuana card in itself is not a license to drive.
There Are No Available Products Consumers Can Use to Test for the Active and Inactive Presence of Marijuana Metabolites
Interviewer: Are there any testing kits that marijuana consumers can use?
Mike Munoz: There are some new products out there that they’re using. There are some oral products that I’ve heard about that can test whether or not someone has marijuana in their system. I don’t think those products break down the difference between active and inactive THC is the problem. As far as I know, the only thing that can breakdown those two is a blood test and that is done through gas chromatography and that’s through an actual lab that can test it.
I don’t know of any home test where people can check themselves. I think the safest thing is, if you smoke marijuana, you need to wait a significant amount of time before you decide to drive a vehicle.
There’s no definitive data on when the active THC is completely out of your body. A good rule of thumb is probably at least 24 hours.
A Medical Marijuana Card Is Not Classified as a Prescription
Interviewer: A medical marijuana license is not a prescription or is that a debate, as well?
Mike Munoz: It essentially a certification technically. You have the right to get marijuana and possess marijuana for medical usage, but the courts are not treating it like a prescription. They’re treating it more as a recommendation. The courts are really interpreting it as something that is not done through the normal medical field.
Part of the problem is how the medical marijuana law was written. It did not really account for some of the uniqueness of the DUI laws that are now being used and so hopefully that will get fixed the next time that this matter comes up.
The Recent Supreme Court Ruling Applies Only to Marijuana
Interviewer: Are any other illegal drugs affected by this recent ruling or it’s really just marijuana?
Prescription Drug-Related DUIs Will Also Be Prosecuted in Arizona
Mike Munoz: It’s just marijuana. Any illegal drug, if it’s in your system at all, the state is going to prosecute you to the full extent of the law. People should be very careful about driving after consuming any illegal drug—and that includes prescription drugs as well. Law enforcement is pursuing prosecutions on prescription drug DUI and what’s interesting is prescription drugs have a built-in defense but they are still prosecuting these cases.
Interviewer: What percentage of cases do you see are prescription drug related?
Mike Munoz: There are at a lower percentage but they’re growing. There’s a large group of Americans, especially 40 or older, who take some type of prescription for their health from sleep medication to anxiety medication to pain medication. All those drugs can possibly impair your ability to drive.
While those people may take those drugs according to how their doctor prescribes them, they are a lot of prosecuting agencies that really don’t care. They’re still prosecuting people anyway so people need to be very careful about that.
DRE Officers: Police Have Received Training to Recognize Both Alcohol and Drug Impairment
Interviewer: Are they particularly targeting them? How would the police know that you’re on a medication like that if you don’t look impaired?
Mike Munoz: The police officers are not only given training into trying to identify people impaired by alcohol, they’re also given training into trying to identify people who are impaired by illegal drugs or prescription drugs. There are officers who have what they call DRE training, Drug Recognition Examinations.
They go through extensive training and they try to standardize the training to be able to identify people who may be impaired by prescription drugs or illegal drugs. They’re DUI investigations but they’re a little bit more unique because the officers are looking for different clues in terms of impairment.