Home / Health / Medical Marijuana / State Supreme Court Rules Cannabis in the Blood Does NOT Constitute Impairment

State Supreme Court Rules Cannabis in the Blood Does NOT Constitute Impairment


Phoenix, AZ – On Sunday, we reported that Colorado juries are increasingly acquitting people of driving under the influence of cannabis, and prosecutors are furious. The trend is important in that it represents jury nullification of an arbitrary, unscientific state law establishing a “legal limit” for blood-THC.

The case of Melanie Brinegar provided an example. As a licensed medical cannabis patient, she was charged for having a blood-THC level over Colorado’s legal limit, but convinced the jury that she was not impaired and actually drives better after using cannabis.

On Friday, the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously stated that the presence of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in the blood does not necessarily mean that a person is impaired.

The court rejected the defense’s argument that possessing a state-issued medical cannabis card gives them immunity from prosecution, but created an “affirmative defense” for those charged with cannabis DUI.

They can still be charged with violating the law for testing positive, but can escape conviction by proving to the court “that the concentration of marijuana or its impairing metabolite in their bodies is insufficient to cause impairment.”

This case is another demonstration of how government is struggling to evolve with cannabis legalization, which is sweeping the nation. Traditional black and white views of “illicit” drugs are no longer applicable.

On the one hand, Arizona law makes it a crime to operate a vehicle “while there is any drug defined in (state law) or its metabolite in the person’s body.” On the other hand, a 2010 voter-approved law says that a medical cannabis patient “shall not be considered to be under the influence of marijuana solely because of the presence of metabolites or components of marijuana that appear in insufficient concentration to cause impairment.”

There is also the fact that no scientific basis exists to show what level of blood-THC makes someone become impaired.

Chief Justice Scott Bales said these things mean that a defendant who is a medical cannabis patient can argue that they cannot be convicted because they were not impaired.

“[Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery] pointed out that Friday’s ruling says that question of impairment is determined by the ‘preponderance of the evidence,’ meaning whether something is more likely than not. And Montgomery said that could mean a defendant would be acquitted unless a prosecutor could find some way — he’s not sure how — to rebut the driver’s self-proclaimed claim that he or she was not impaired.”

Arizona’s system of testing drivers for cannabis and its metabolites—routinely used by cops—was dealt a blow last year when justices threw out a conviction for a driver who tested positive for carboxy-THC. The court said there was no evidence that the metabolite means someone is impaired, and said allowing such a test to be used would be unfair.

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling strengthens the argument against using an arbitrary blood-THC number as an indication of impairment. Even without a scientific basis, some officials, such as Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, are ready to set a “presumptive limit in statute on what automatically constitutes impairment.”

Chief Justice Bales provided a counterpoint to this when he wrote the court opinion:

“The risk of uncertainty in this regard should fall on the patients, who generally know or should know if they are impaired and can control when they drive, rather than on the members of the public whom they encounter on our streets.”

No one is suggesting that anyone consume large amounts of cannabis and immediately get behind the wheel, and most people would not want to anyway. However, cannabis and driving impairment cannot be viewed the same as alcohol and driving impairment, and cannot be reduced to a number pulled out of the air.

In case you’ve heard distorted tales that car crashes and fatalities are up in states where cannabis has been legalized, read up on a study commissioned this year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They found no “significant increased risk of crash involvement” due to cannabis use.

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  • Sometimes all you can do it not think, not wonder, not imagine, not obsess. Just breathe, and have faith that everything will work out for the best. Believe that if it’s meant to be, it will be.

  • Fucking idiots!

    • Who are you talking about?

    • Likely himsekf

    • Allison Clough Goodwin It’s 2015 and we now use test that can tell you exact levels in your system! Police are not using hair to convict Drug Drivers! Effects of smoking marijuana are noticeable within minutes after the first toke, and usually reach peak levels after 30 minutes. Most physical and psychological effects of marijuana will return to normal within 5 hours after administration, with exceptional strains or high potency THC effects reported to last for 24 hours. http://drug.addictionblog.org/how-long-does-marijuana-last/

  • Daniel Partida Jr. No worries 😉

  • That’s hella tight

  • Cops have an agenda all their own.. They think they are above the law..

    • Not all, but too many. They should quit giving the school bullies guns and badges.

    • And they are above the law according to the court systems so sad.

    • Lol, it’s more than their own agenda, in parts of AZ, the cops automatically charge you with a DUI once they find out you have a medical marijuana card, regardless of the circumstances. Any urine or blood work is sent to an outside lab, under instructions NOT to include specific details in the police report, only a positive or negative THC result. You’ll get charged with a DUI because you have THC in your system, and it’s next to impossible to get the numbers for “how much THC” because hey are not in the lab results or the police report. Neither the defense or prosecution have these numbers. It’s in the lab notes, which have to be subpoenaed. All this will get dragged out for months, while the prosecution tries to get you to take a plea bargain, because convictions = revenue. None of this is about justice.

  • It seems more likely that you’re impaired if you DON’T have cannabis in your blood. 🙂

  • as long as it’s declared illegal cops feel justified in persecution of citizens

  • The Arizona state Supreme Court has spoken. Not the knuckle heads in DC. Don’t miss that huge difference.

  • Arizona is a first step, what needs to happen to get it to the US Supreme Court?

  • Just what we need?

  • Fernando Cardoso

  • Too bad they can’t apply this logic to drinking and driving.

    • Are you really that ignorant? If you have alcohol in ur system that means you are under the influence of alcohol. Cannabis stays in ur system for many weeks to months after the affects of cannabis is over.

    • No.. alcohol in your system does not mean that you are IMPAIRED. Especially at 0.08 BAC.

      And no.. the “affects of cannabis” are not over until it is out of your system. You just get accustomed to the drug.

      Exactly as if I were to give you an IV to ensure that your BAC remained EXACTLY 0.12 BAC. At first you would be drunk and have a hard time doing tasks. Within time you would adapt to the alcohol level and you would normalize.

      So who is the ignorant one? Would it be the same one that is arguing from a point of contention and emotional nonsense?

  • After the big circuit gets the appeal, we will see if this is a SCOTUS case.

  • In a state where simple possession is a felony nonetheless.

  • Common sense

  • Blair Mooney ???

  • Teri Deida Jose Deida

  • Hey Mark, just what we need to argue now

  • You needed a court to tell you that? When are you going to force your State to respect your UNALIENABLE rights? Change their constitutions to that affect? Do you know the full scope of your rights?

  • Ryan Andrew Milligan 🙂 its only a matter of time until you can get pardoned for those now…. at least until it happens in this state.

  • Son-risa Marie Blea-Karlstrum

  • legal precedence! YES! Makes it easier for other states to follow suit.

  • Oh damn!! Don’t bogart that joint my friend,pass it over to meee!!! 😉

  • The same as alconol..it’s the amount of content in your blood.. and what about jobs and all those denied work because of this? Are they going to reverse this position now? Safety is always the issue..Drug testing does not affect me personally..

  • Common sense. It doesn’t. There is no way to prove when the person had THC. Zero. Ziltch. Could of been yesterday or last week.

  • Hmm … I’ve seen one person you couldn’t tell had smoked and others who I would NOT trust at the wheel of a vehicle after merely a few puffs … this should be quite the debate. The part I find a bit fuzzy is where the judge says the risk should fall on the would-be drivers rather than on the public they may encounter; if they’re impaired, they’re probably not in the greatest state of mind to go making responsible choices so I’m not quite clear what they meant with that unless he suggests that this applies only to patients with prescription cannabis … ?

  • Lets just be clear that a state supreme court is NOT SCOTUS.

  • There’s research that shows pot has little to no effect on driving on moderate doses.

  • Just think about all of the falsely charged people in the past that are out there. All the life’s ruined. Glad this is changing.

  • Supreme Court is ABSOLUTELY WRONG !!!!!!

  • Brian Dodger Welch

  • have u ever drove while U , or Yall r stoned, try it and c if u can drive ” safely”, before u ” rule ” that, if they drive too slow ,they will get a ticket, for traffic conjestion, then the cop person will notice their stoned, drugg test them, then they get arrested, and go to jail, and could cause an accident by trying to run, bolt infront of traffic ,get hit, and die, ” dont constitute”? ,,,,,, ok

  • This doesn’t include smoking it in vehicle. The guy with shady glasses is smoking a legal cigarette not marijuana.
    Colorado doesn’t allow smoking while driving. No open containers of marijuana in car. Just as no open beer etc.
    Marijuana stays in the blood up to 30days after use. It is also naturally produced in most human bodies with zero consumption of never using it. THC is what I speak of. Some people with a zero test in studies have acidic blood as well as cancer . So in theory their bodies stopped naturally producing it. (:

  • Painfull Rant

  • Last time I checked the police enforced laws, not state supreme court rulings. Don’t like a law……..
    Change it, don’t blame the police for enforcing it.

    • Change it? How, by voting in a rigged system designed only to benefit a small percentage?

    • Marijuana laws for one are being changed state by state.
      However if you truly feel as you say then a revolution is your answer.

    • That was the Nazi’s
      Defense at Nuremberg trials!!

    • The police in America are far from being nazi war criminals Bert Miles. While some police officers are guilty of excessive force, unjustified shootings, and some unnecessary bull shit, that is far from the norm and they are not following orders when breaking laws for the most part.( there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule, with any category of people.)
      I’m sure you envision some screwed up version of utopia where there are no laws and no one enforcing any.
      Let me assure you however, remove that blue line and the degenerated group of people not following lawful orders from the police will be coming for you, your family, and all of your crap !
      You see you owe it to those vermin, and they will take it from you ! At least in their mind.

    • Ed Rawles The slave class is now given permission to distract themselves further from the slave system in which they exist with another mind altering substance, yes. So tell me how exactly that means voting changes anything?

      Legalization of marijuana benefits the small percentage of elite psychopaths which run this country (and the entire world) more than it does the slaves on the slave-farm. The slaves here on the farm now seem to believe in the oppressive slave system even more-so… they are “free” and they voted! They believe they have some kind of control over the system which is imposed upon them against their will from birth, because something which never should have been banned in the first place is now “legal”.

      Yes, “freedom”. And lets not overlook that the entire “legal” substance is now controlled and monitored heavily by the government for their financial gain (and our loss) as well. Now we have the “privilege” back, but only if we play by their rules. Well played, elite psychopaths. Take something harmless away from the people (mostly under the guise of racism, even!) make shit loads of money and have free slave labor (i.e. inmates) for decades, then give back the harmless substance with a bunch of taxes and rules, and go about business as usual.

      Keep the people distracted, keep the people in debt, give the illusion of control= keep the people believing in the system in which is fucking them.

    • Ambra Jean, I agree with you on some of your points. Especially that the average person today is a slave and is unaware of it. There are many things the average person is unaware of however. Like knowing how large a scale this oppressive system is, who they are fighting, its cause, or how to free themselves from it.
      Your comment on marijuana is confusing however, for one you call marijuana a “mind altering substance” then you seem to defend it’s use by saying things like ” now we have the privilege back but only if we play by their rules ” and calling it ” harmless ” at the same time.
      Is something mind altering harmless ?
      You also asked how voting changes anything, it changes the perception of the slave class. I also offered an alternative to voting if you believe as you say. The problem you will have is that most don’t understand what they need to revolt against.

  • Weed impares your ability to be spoon fed lies

    • Actually it just mellows you out so you don’t care about the lies your told.

    • Is your opinion based on first hand experience? Or was it spoon fed? ..Before you answer please know I mean you no disrespect.

    • First hand experience.

  • Wow!

  • They didn’t know about that Columbian I had back in 1979. I couldn’t move. Plummeted into a 5th dimension. Heaven and nature were playing this far out symphony. I don’t smoke any more, but I would be tempted if someone put that in front of me. And I would not want to ruin it by driving.

  • Bonnie Joy Edward