Getting a DUI without being drunk or high is possible in Arizona - KMSP-TV

Getting a DUI without being drunk or high is possible in Arizona

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) -

Voters approved medical marijuana in Arizona with Prop 203 back in 2010 and there are now nearly 36,000 medical marijuana card holders in the state.

But what many of them may not know, is that they're risking getting a DUI if they drive, even if it's been weeks since they last ingested marijuana.

"I have a reconstructed leg. I have a plate here, a plate up the side, twelve screws through my femur bone, and a staple holding my knee joint together."

Tad Zaccard lives with constant pain after he was in a bad motorcycle crash.  He says he's been able to manage that pain after getting a medical marijuana card after it became legal in Arizona.

"This works for me and I'm sure it works for a lot of people," he said.

But one thing medical marijuana users like Tad may not realize is they run the risk of getting a DUI if they drive, even if they haven't used it for weeks.

"And if anybody's ingested marijuana within the last month -- and then they are driving -- they are at risk of getting a DUI -- and having their license revoked for a year. Regardless of whether or not they're impaired," explained Michael Alarid, at attorney with the Law Officers of David Michael Cantor.

Alarid took this issue to the Arizona Supreme Court after his client was charged with DUI after using medical marijuana.

"It's just become an issue that comes up more often.  And it's going to affect more people.  And that's why I have asked the Supreme Court to take another look at this," he said.

The Arizona Supreme Court's decision could change the way DUIs are handled when it comes to trace amounts of marijuana in someone's system.

The law was written back in the 1990s, before state lawmakers could ever conceive of medical marijuana being legal.  It states that any trace of marijuana, known as metabolite, is enough to charge someone with DUI, even if they're sober.

"So all they have to prove is that you're driving -- and you have this inactive metabolite in your system. If that's what they show -- it's an automatic DUI," said Alarid.

Zaccard knows that all too well.  He was pulled over while leaving his Mesa home to go to the store.

"Literally, I was pulling out of my driveway and within seconds of pulling out of my driveway, the lights hit me," he said.  "I was taking too long to get into the other lane, is what I was told."

A motorcycle officer who stopped Zaccard had him do field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test.

"My breathalyzer was zero.. 0.00 all the way around," said Zaccard.

But his blood showed traces of marijuana metabolite and he was charged with DUI and DUI-drugs.  He could lose his license for a year and face jail time.

"When you get your card, you're basically giving up your right to drive in the state of Arizona under the zero tolerance law --- has now made you a criminal if you drive in the state," said Zaccard.

While Zaccard's case is still making its way through the courts almost a year later, he is anxiously awaiting a decision from the Arizona Supreme Court.

"No cases like this are being won in this state. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance -- any amount in your blood," he said.  "It's giving somebody on a Friday who drank a DUI on Monday. It's absolutely ridiculous."

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is pushing to keep the current law as it is.  The office told FOX 10 it would have no comment on the issue until the Supreme Court makes a decision whether or not to set a minimum limit when it comes to trace amounts in someone's system.  That could happen sometime in the next month.

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