Last updated: May 29, 2023
Arizona had a reputation for being strongly opposed to marijuana legalization. It took several initiatives before Proposition 203 succeeded in legalizing medical marijuana in the state in 2010.
Since then, over 200,000 caregivers, dispensaries, and people with ailments identified as qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana prescription have benefited from the legalization.
However, even though medical marijuana is now legal in Arizona, cardholders in the state may still face DUI charges if they get behind the wheel after using marijuana. Their medical marijuana card does not exempt them from Arizona’s strict DUI laws, and they will need the help of a DUI defense attorney if they ever get arrested for driving under the influence.
Nevertheless, Arizona continues to take significant strides with regards to medical marijuana with the signing into law of Senate Bill 1494 in June 2019. Let’s take a closer look at Arizona’s new medical marijuana law, which is poised to make significant changes to Arizona’s medical marijuana program.
Safer medical marijuana
Under SB 1494, medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona will be required to test their products for mold, pesticides, fungicides, heavy metals, and other toxins and contaminants starting November 1, 2020. The testing requirement also aims to establish the potency of the marijuana products that dispensaries are selling.
Aside from medical marijuana testing, SB 1494 will also require dispensaries to provide the results of such tests to patients and caregivers who ask for them.
The strict enforcement of SB 1494’s testing requirement will ensure that all medical marijuana products sold out of dispensaries in Arizona will be safe and of high quality.
Before SB 1494, Arizona was one of two (the other being Rhode Island) of the 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana that didn’t have a marijuana testing requirement for dispensaries in place.
Two-year medical marijuana card validity
SB 1494 also cuts the cost of medical marijuana cards by half, but not by slashing the price of the card, which still stands at $150. The new law does so by extending the validity of the card from one year to two years.
However, only medical marijuana cards issued after August 27, 2019, the effectivity date of the new law, are valid for two years. Cards issued before that date will still have a one-year validity, even when its expiration date goes beyond the law’s effectivity date.
Medical marijuana cards in Arizona have also gone electronic on December 1, 2019, as mandated by SB 1494. With electronic medical marijuana cards, patients no longer need to carry an actual card when buying from a dispensary.
DUI and medical marijuana
Medical marijuana may already be legal in Arizona, but driving under the influence of the substance, even for medicinal purposes, is still punishable in the state.
A.R.S. 28-1381(A)(1) of the Arizona Revised Statutes clearly states that anyone—including medical marijuana cardholders—who gets behind the wheel after using marijuana is to be charged with DUI. Drivers can show their medical marijuana card—electronic or otherwise—to the police officer who stopped them on suspicion of DUI, and it will do nothing to stop their arrest. Even when there’s no visible sign of impairment, a driver will still be charged with a DUI if a drug test finds traces of the substance in his or her system at the time of the arrest.
Marijuana DUI penalties in Arizona
A First DUI conviction in Arizona carries a minimum fine of $1,250 and at least 10 days in jail. Community service, license suspension, probation, and ignition interlock device installation may also be added to the list of penalties.
If that same offender gets convicted for a second DUI within 84 months, he or she will pay a minimum fine of $3,000 and serve at least 90 days in jail. Additional penalties may include community service, license suspension, probation, ignition interlock device installation, and mandatory participation in a drug treatment program.
The penalties become harsher with a third DUI conviction within seven years. A minimum of four months in prison awaits the offender. He or she will also have to pay fines of up to $150,000. A three-year license suspension may also be meted out, as well as up to 5 years’ probation. The offender may also lose his or her vehicle through forfeiture and will be required to participate in a drug treatment program.
While the State of Arizona has relaxed its stance on medical marijuana after years of keeping it at bay, its laws against driving under the influence remain as stringent as ever. So if you’re a medical marijuana cardholder and you find yourself arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana, get the services of a skilled and experienced DUI attorney. With a DUI lawyer defending you, your chances of getting a positive result will improve.