As legalization of marijuana continues to happen across the United States, police departments have grappled with questions of marijuana impairment while driving. In Colorado, there is a limit of five nanograms of THC per cubic millimeter of blood where you are declared legally impaired by marijuana, but a court case in Arizona might set a precedent that changes that.
The case involved a driver who drifted out of his lane and was pulled over by police. He admitted to smoking marijuana that morning and was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. He was a medical marijuana patient and his attorneys argued that he was legally allowed to have marijuana in his system as a result. The driver had a blood THC level of 26.9 nanograms.
The prosecution declared that Arizona’s 2010 medical marijuana law required cardholders to prove that they were not impaired through expert testimony. The Arizona Supreme Court disagreed, stating that there was no presumptive impairment limit established by Arizona law, and that there is no scientific consensus proving a blood THC level that definitively shows impairment.
The Shaky Science of Marijuana and Driving
The problem with limits on THC in the blood is that marijuana is a finicky drug. Someone who is a habitual marijuana user, like the driver above, could have THC levels that far exceed the miniscule limit imposed by Colorado law and other state laws. This could be true days, even weeks after that person has last used marijuana. There is just no easy way to prove a driver is impaired by marijuana. The Arizona Supreme Court agrees – we’ll see if their opinion sticks anywhere else.
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