- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona residents who have medical marijuana cards that allow them to legally smoke pot can still be prosecuted for driving under the influence in the state, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

A three-judge Court of Appeals panel’s ruling Tuesday addressed the question of whether medical marijuana users should be immune from prosecution under DUI laws. Travis Lance Darrah was arrested in December 2011 on charges that he was driving while impaired and under the influence while having marijuana in his system.

He was acquitted of driving while impaired but convicted on a DUI law that prohibits anyone from operating a vehicle while having a prohibited drug or its compound in their system.

Darrah filed an appeal, arguing that part of the medical marijuana law was intended to make authorized users immune from prosecution unless they drive while impaired.

But the appeals court disagreed, saying the 2010 voter-approved medical marijuana law made no reference to immunity under DUI laws.

“If Arizona voters had intended to completely bar the state from prosecuting authorized marijuana users …. they could have easily done so by using specific language to that effect,” the court ruled.

As medical marijuana laws have been enacted around the country, Legislatures and the courts have struggled with how to enforce DUI laws and how they relate to pot. There is no standard test to determine if a driver is high on THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets people high. The result has been confusion over how to develop uniform rules for “driving while high.”

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