In 2010, Arizona’s voters approved Prop. 203 to allow the medical use of marijuana. Since the law’s passing, more than 90,000 patients have registered and are able to obtain medicinal marijuana. But even though it is legal, can you still be arrested for being under the influence of it?
DUI for Medicinal Marijuana?
When people hear “DUI” they usually automatically assume that alcohol was involved. But remember, DUI stands for “driving under the influence,” and that can mean under the influence of anything, including alcohol, drugs, and even prescribed medication. DUI charges can be very hard to fight, which is why you’ll want to work with a criminal defense lawyer like the ones at Ferragut Law Firm.
DUI Is NOT Just Alcohol
Alcohol is just one substance that can impair a person’s ability to drive. But it is not the only one. Driving under the influence includes driving not only under alcohol, but also illegal drugs as well as prescribed drugs. That means that if you have received a prescription from a doctor, you’re going to want to closely monitor how the drug affects you before getting behind the wheel of a car. Additionally, a prescription cannot be used as a defense to DUI charges. What this means is that if you are pulled over for driving under the influence of a legally prescribed drug, the fact that you have a prescription to be on the drug cannot be used to excuse the charges.
A 2010 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that close to 10 million Americans had driven under the influence of illegal drugs during the previous year. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2009, more than 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illegal or prescription drug in 2009. Another survey performed that same year by NHTSA found that one in five motorists that were killed in car crashes tested positive for drugs.
Know How Your Prescription & Over-the-Counter Drugs Will Affect You
Just because a drug is legally purchased at a pharmacy, prescribed by a doctor, or bought over-the-counter (OTC), that does not mean they are not potentially dangerous. Do your research and look at warning labels or ask your doctor or pharmacist about how the drugs you are taking could impair your driving.
Here are some effects of commonly prescribed drugs and OTC drugs:
- Antidepressants: can cause impairment similar to drunk driving.
- Valium: 10 mg of the popular tranquilizer can cause impairment similar to having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent.
- Antihistamines: can cause slow reaction time and impair coordination.
- Decongestants: can cause drowsiness, anxiety, and dizziness.
- Sleeping Pills: residual effects can impair drivers.
- Hydrocodone: can cause impairment similar to morphine and codeine.
If you have been accused of driving under the influence, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney that handles DUI cases
Guilty of a Drug Crime?
Being accused of committing a drug crime is a very serious matter. With all the “law speak” that gets thrown around in these cases, it’s often hard for a person to fully understand the allegations they might be facing. That’s why it’s always advised that you work with a criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of a drug crime.
Here are some of the most common drug-related crimes that are charged and prosecuted in Arizona include:
- Possession of illegal drugs: Being found in possession of illegal drugs can include possessing any quantity of marijuana, narcotics such as cocaine and heroin, and/or possessing dangerous drugs like methamphetamine, ecstasy and clonazepam. In the case of marijuana, your sentence can depend on the quantity of drugs.
- Possession of drug paraphernalia: Drug paraphernalia includes items used to store, ingest, conceal, or perform other actions with drugs. Common types of paraphernalia include pipes, bongs, syringes, baggies, and scales. Penalties for possession of drug paraphernalia are increased where the paraphernalia is used to manufacture, cultivate, and/or distribute a drug (such as a scale and lamps used to grow marijuana).
- Distribution of illegal drugs: Distribution of drugs can describe not only the sale of drugs but any other transfer of drugs from one person to another. If you share marijuana with a friend, for example, you have “distributed” drugs. Monetary compensation is not necessary to sustain a conviction for drug distribution. Additional penalties can be imposed if you are found to be distributing a drug in a school zone.
- Prescription-drug offenses: Common criminal acts relating to prescription drugs include possessing or using a drug that is only available by prescription if you do not have a valid prescription for it and can include using or possessing another person’s prescription drug.
- Using communication facilities to arrange a drug transaction: It is a criminal act to use a communication device (most commonly a telephone or cellular telephone) to assist you in arranging a drug-related transaction. Sending a text message to another person indicating where to meet to exchange drugs is one of the most common way in which these laws are violated.
Be Aware of New Drug Laws
If a planned 2016 ballot initiative is approved for the ballot and it passes, Arizonans might be able to legally carry and grow marijuana. Here’s what you need to know about the proposed drug initiative.
What You Need to Know About Proposed Arizona Drug Initiative
Possession – People 21 years and older will be allowed to carry, use, purchase, obtain, process, manufacture, or transport up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Also, people would be able to give marijuana to others.
Growing / Shopping – People 21 and older will be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants at a home for personal use. This is as long as no more than 12 plants are being grown on the premises at one time. Roughly 150 cannabis shops would be able to open throughout the state. People would be able to buy marijuana at retail outlets. Sales would include a 15 percent tax.
What’s Illegal? It will still be illegal to be drive while high. It will also still be illegal to smoke, eat, or ingest marijuana in public. It will also still be illegal to sell or trade it, or give the drug to anyone under 21 years of age.
Where Does the Money Go? Forty percent of the taxes on marijuana will be allocated to the Department of Education for construction, maintenance and operation costs, including compensation of K-12 teachers. An additional 40 percent will be allocated to full-day kindergarten programs. And 20 percent will go to the Department of Health Services for unspecified uses.
Why Businesses are Opposing the Legalization of Marijuana
Under the proposed Arizona initiative, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, adults 21 and older could carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana, grow marijuana in their homes, and buy marijuana from licensed stores. So if it’s been proposed to be put into law, why do business oppose it?
There’s a good chance that Arizona will soon join states Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia in legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana. But as Keith Stephens, owner of the Scottsdale-based lumber-supply company Woodworkers Source explains, “Many, many businesses, including mine, have a certain element of risk. In my case it’s driving a forklift loaded with heavy material and being in the shop with chop saws.”
And if Arizona voters decide to legalize marijuana for recreational use, it might make it harder for business owners like Stephens to not only find qualified workers, but to also keep his current workplace safe.
“I don’t want them hurt … I don’t want the liability,” Stephens said regarding his employees, “and I want them to be able to properly take care of our customers.”
While employers in the state would be allowed to maintain drug-free policies, the measure provides no standards regarding what constitutes impairment by marijuana. State law also offers no standard.
It’s yet to be seen what will happen when voters go out to the polls. If you have been accused of committing a drug crime, you’ll want to work with a criminal defense attorney.
Working with Ferragut Law Firm
Ferragut Law Firm is a top rated criminal defense law firm based in Phoenix Arizona. We are dedicated exclusively to the practice of criminal law in all state, federal, and city courts throughout the State of Arizona.
Our mission is to achieve the best possible results for our clients through hard work, attention to detail, and aggressive advocacy, while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical standards.
We are committed to providing the most aggressive, professional, and effective representation for our clients accused of crimes to ensure that their legal rights are protected and that the best possible results are achieved. Contact us to discuss the details of your case.
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