Arizona Court of Appeals Rules Marijuana DUI Law Impaired

Thanks to a recent Arizona Court of Appeals ruling, medical marijuana patients have received some much-needed protection from unwarranted prosecution for driving with elevated THC metabolite levels.

Last Thursday, appellate Judge Diane Johnsen ruled Arizona medical marijuana patients cannot be convicted of driving under the influence absent proof they were actually too high to drive, according to

A patient cannot automatically be considered under the influence of marijuana “solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.”

Unequivocal evidence of impairment

In other words, prosecutors in the Grand Canyon state are now required to support their assertion an individual was “too high to drive” through expert testimony before prosecuting state-sanctioned medical marijuana patients for driving while under the influence of the psychoactive plant.

Tipping the THC metabolite scale at 26.9 nanograms after a traffic stop in 2013, Nadir Ishak has become the inadvertent poster child for medical marijuana patients facing DUI charges. Ishak was initially charged with driving while impaired in Mesa, Arizona after an officer noticed Ishak’s car drifting between lanes. After admitting to the officer he had consumed the medicinal herb earlier in the day, Ishak was subjected to a field sobriety test. After citing “body tremors and eye tremors” during the roadside inquisition, the officer booked Nadir Ishak for driving under the influence.

Found guilty on one of the two initial charges during his first trial, Judge Diane Johnsen of the state Court of Appeals felt the accused medical marijuana patient was initially denied a fair trial. Putting the local Mesa city judge on blast,  Judge Johnsen chastised the original judge for refusing to allow the accused medical marijuana patient to inform the jury he was a state-sanctioned patient, and allowed to use medical marijuana as necessary.

“She said that would have provided evidence to the jury that Ishak was legally entitled under the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act to use the drug and have it in his system.”

Thankfully, last week’s ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals upholds the intent of the voter-approved initiative to legalize medical marijuana for Arizona’s qualifying residents. Hopefully restricting the state’s prosecutors from further unlawful overreach, this ruling should seriously restrain the overzealous prosecution of MMJ patients caught driving with elevated THC metabolite levels.

As the below 2013 video demonstrates, skillfully operating a motor vehicle under the influence of weed/medical marijuana varies based on the individual user’s tolerance level. Drivers with a more extensive history with THC (read: Medical marijuana patients) did far better than those occasional consumers.

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