Medical Marijuana Users Still Presumptively Impaired to Drive

In a unanimous decision, Dobson et. al. v. McClennen (CV-14-0313-PR) issued Friday Nov. 20th, the Arizona Supreme Court (Bales, J.),  held that persons driving after legally smoking medical marijuana   are nevertheless “presumed to be under the influence”  under Arizona law.  However, when charged with DUI, medical marijuana drivers may present a “limited defense” to prove that the level of marijuana in the driver’s blood is an “insufficient concentration to cause impairment.” Dobson, supra at ¶23.

 Implicit in this decision is the recognition of the wild popularity and easy availability of “medical” marijuana cards in Arizona, and their footing as a substitute for physician-prescribed medicine.  Emphasizing that the easily-obtained  “written certifications” to use medical marijuana are not the same as medical “prescriptions,” the Court underscored that those issuing popular medical marijuana certifications are in a different class of “medical providers” than physicians, dentists, or even “podiatrists.”   Those driving are not “immune” to DUI, as a statute had seemed to suggest, but rather, when arrested, now have the legal burden of proving in court “by a preponderance of evidence” that the amount in their systems was too little to be impairing.  Thus, in a tale of two licenses, the AZ Supreme Court has held decisively that a license to smoke is not a license to drive.

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