Arizona: Court Ruling a Setback For Prosecutors in Medical Pot DUI Cases

Article by Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services via

Medical marijuana users cannot be convicted of driving while under the influence of the drug absent proof that they were actually impaired, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

In a major setback for prosecutors, the judges pointed out that Arizona, unlike some other states, has no law that spells out that at a certain level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the blood a person is presumed to be impaired.

THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“And, according to evidence here, there is no scientific consensus about the concentration of THC that generally is sufficient to impair a human being,” appellate Judge Diane Johnsen wrote.

What that means is every case where prosecutors charge a medical marijuana user with breaking the law requires expert testimony to show that particular individual was impaired at that particular level of THC.

This case involves Nadir Ishak who was stopped by police in Mesa in 2013 after the officer said he saw his vehicle drift out of its lane. The officer testified Ishak admitted to smoking marijuana that morning, that his eyes were bloodshot and watery, and that during a field sobriety tests he experienced “body tremors and eye tremors.”

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