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Medical Marijuana users in Arizona can face DUI charges even if they are not impaired

According to a series of court decisions recently made, users of medical marijuana in Arizona can face jail time or penalties such as the suspension of their drivers license if they are found driving with cannabis in their system even if they are not impaired.

The decision includes a new one from the state Court of Appeals and the ruling stems from the case of a medical marijuana cardholder named Travis Lance Darrah who was pulled over and charged with DUI in 2011.

Darrah was acquitted of DUI but was found guilty of a misdemeanor charge by the Mesa jury for driving with an illegal substance in his system. His attorney, John Tatz, said that Darrah faced a day in jail along with $1,500 in fines. He was also required to participate in a substance abuse program. His driver’s license was also suspended for a year as a result of the conviction.

Darrah appealed the ruling stating that he is an authorized cannabis user and the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act protects him from being prosecuted.

However, his appeal was rejected by two Arizona trial courts as well as from the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The courts ruled that legalized users of marijuana are not exempt from DUI laws as per the voter-approved state medical marijuana law.

Although the state marijuana laws provide all kinds of protections, there are no legal exemptions or protections when it comes to DUIs and driving with active marijuana in the system. This creates a huge legal problem for authorized cardholders.

In Darrah’s case, the trial judge would not even allow the jury to hear testimony that he was a state authorized medical marijuana user. However, his attorney said that the court rulings and interpretations of DUI and medical marijuana laws just don’t seem right.

The rulings will be appealed by Darrah’s attorney in the Arizona Supreme Court. According to Tatz, the rulings should be a warning to other medical marijuana users and that they can end up facing a DUI charge if they are found driving around with illegal substances in their systems.

However, the appeal might be complicated as the court has already gone through two appeals after its original hearing in a municipal court. The court rulings have also not set any kind of limits for the amount of marijuana that has to be present in a driver’s system for them to be facing a DUI charge for being intoxicated.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Program was voter approved and it will need a super-majority vote to change it again, which might be tough to do. According to the state and federal laws, marijuana is still illegal.

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