Releaf Magazine

DUI ruling: Marijuana presence not proof of impairment

PHOENIX — People with marijuana in their system can escape driving-under-the-influence convictions if they can show they weren’t “high” enough to be impaired, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The justices rejected a claim by two individuals that the fact they had state-issued cards allowing them to ingest the drug automatically means they can never be charged with driving while impaired. Chief Justice Scott Bales, writing for the unanimous court, said nothing in the 2010 voter-approved law allowing the medical use of marijuana provides such immunity.

But Bales said the presence of marijuana is not proof that someone is actually impaired.

Friday’s ruling creates what is called an “affirmative defense” for those charged with driving with drugs in their system.

In essence, they can still be charged with violating the law. And all prosecutors have to prove is that they did, in fact, test positive for marijuana or one of its metabolites, the chemicals caused when the drug breaks down in the body.

But Bales said defendants can escape conviction if they can prove to a court “that the concentration of marijuana or its impairing metabolite in their bodies is insufficient to cause impairment.”

The decision is a mixed bag for prosecutors.

On one hand, they praised the fact the high court did not say medical marijuana users can drive without fear of being stopped or prosecuted.

“This is a very welcome ruling in today’s culture, where the small minority of individuals who use marijuana seek to reorganize Arizona’s laws to protect their use to the detriment of the public’s safety,” said Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

But prosecutors were upset the justices effectively voided the state law that makes it a crime for individuals to operate a vehicle “while there is any drug defined in (state law) or its metabolite in the person’s body.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that law is plain on its surface: If a motorist tests positive for marijuana, he or she is guilty of driving while impaired. He said that differs from other laws wherein prosecutors have to specifically prove someone was impaired.

Bales conceded that point. And he said there apparently was a purpose behind that statute.

“The Legislature, in seeking to combat the serious problem of impaired driving, recognized that for certain drugs it may be difficult to identify concentrations that definitely establish whether a defendant is impaired,” Bales wrote.

But he said there’s another law at play: the one voters approved in 2010 allowing those with certain medical conditions to legally possess and use marijuana. And that law spells out that a 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.”

Bales said those two statutes, read together, give medical marijuana patients the chance to argue that they cannot be convicted because they were not impaired.

Montgomery said there’s one big practical problem with that: There are no scientific studies that show at what level of marijuana in the blood someone becomes impaired.

That’s far different than laws dealing with drunken driving. Lawmakers have enacted laws saying that someone with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more is presumed to be driving while intoxicated.

What that potentially leaves, said Montgomery, is having defendants testify that they were not impaired.

For example, he said an individual could say he uses marijuana for back pains but still had a spasm, which is what resulted in the car jerking, and which is further why the officer pulled the person over in the first place.

“I’m going to declare from my personal testimony, ‘I wasn’t impaired, I drive like this all the time,’” Montgomery said of how the testimony might go.

He 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 impaired than not. 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 claim that he or she was not impaired.

Friday’s ruling extends even further the legal protections the state Supreme Court provided last year for marijuana users charged with DUI.

Polk said Friday’s ruling will have even more far-reaching implications if voters approve the initiative now being proposed for the 2016 ballot to allow the recreational use of marijuana.


VIA The Arizona Star

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Sue Sisley still hopes to find a home for her study in Arizona.

Sue Sisley is still having trouble getting her ground-breaking work on the effects of cannabis on veterans with PTSD recognized in Arizona, where she is based — and lost three state contracts last summer. But she's found much more success in other states, including Colorado, which approved her grant application for $2 million to further her research late last year.

And today, Sisley will be honored by Americans for Safe Access as Researcher of the Year at the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington, D.C. Many of the veterans who have battled alongside the doctor to further her marijuana/PTSD research will be on stage with Sisley to accept the honor this evening.

Sisley presented a program at the conference yesterday, describing many of the obstacles she also detailed when she was in Denver last fall. A physican who specializes in internal medicine and psychiatry, Sisley is the principal investigator for the only FDA-approved randomized controlled trial looking at use of whole-plant marijuana in combat veterans with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder; that study was based at the University of Arizona, where in 2001, Sisley won the UA’s Leo B. Hart Humanitarian Award for “outstanding contributions made for social reform” by the University of Arizona College of Medicine. She was a faculty member in excellent standing at the school for nearly seven years. But last June, she had all three of her university contracts stripped. Sisley and her many supporters believe the move was political, a response to her ceaseless efforts to push for the full implementation of the study. Today she cites this “firing” as one of her proudest professional achievements....prioritizing her patients’ needs and advocating for science over political pressure.

Media across the country covered UA's move, which put her on a "pretty barbaric rollercoaster," Sisley told us last fall. "One injustice after another, and I suspect it will not slow down for quite a while." But she definitely caught a break in Colorado, where she presented her grant proposal to Colorado's Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council in December. By then, Johns Hopkins had already stepped up with a formal partnership for the study; Sisley plans to divide the protocol between Baltimore and a still undetermined place in Arizona, where so many of the vets she works with are based. "The dire need for this PTSD research is so obvious with our epidemic of veteran suicide," she says. "The relentless delays from our Arizona universities and other government agencies are unconscionable."

Colorado received 57 applications for funding; the council considered eight finalists, whose requests totaled $7.6 million. All of them were granted — including Sisley's. "The Colorado health department believed in the quality of this research regardless of whether I was aligned with a university in Arizona or not," Sisley says. "It's a true vindication of its scientific merits, and further highlights how shameful it is that no Arizona university is willing to embrace this crucial research."

A shame that should be further highlighted by tonight's ASA Award to Sisley.


VIA Westword

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Pot Lottery; That’s $%#@*! Rich!

Medical Marijuana: Arizona To Hold Prescription Pot Lottery

It's been a busy couple of days in America's weed world.

For starters, Arizona will hold a lottery tomorrow to pick medical marijuana dispensaries, according to The Associated Press.

Why will the state hold a contest, you might ask?

Though prescription pot is legal in Arizona, the Department of Health Services received 486 apps from individuals or businesses who want to open shops in 99 of the 126 designated dispensary areas -- part of the Department's long-term goals for its medical marijuana program.

However, in 75 of those 99 areas, more than one individual or business applied for a dispensary certificate.

So they're doing a straight-up lotto -- we're talking ping pong balls chosen at random, for reals -- to pick a winner.

The Department's decision comes shortly after many of Arizona's sheriff's and county district attorneys demanded that Gov. Jan Brewer put the brakes on the state's dispensary program, citing federal statutes against cannabis -- which have caused confusion (read: a messy, messy clusterfuck) in California.

And in other bud-oriented breaking news, California Rep. Barbara Lee has sponsored legislation that would put an end to the federal crackdown on state medical marijuana operations, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Recall, also, that Ron Paul recently introduced the "Truth in Trials Act" in Congress, which would give legal protections to prescription pot users.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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Screwing all types of patients

Bill Would Bar Medical Marijuana on Campus

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona House has given preliminary approval to a bill that bars medical marijuana cardholders from possessing or using marijuana on school campuses.

If passed, the law would apply to preschools, colleges and universities. However, the restriction would not apply to private schools.

Arizona voters approved a medical marijuana law in 2010.

When this year's proposal goes before the full House for a formal vote, it must be affirmed by three-fourths of the members because it would change a voter-approved law.

House passage would send it to the Senate.

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Education sans medication

Legislation would make medical pot illegal for students living on campus

Is this even constitutional? -UA

PHOENIX -- State lawmakers are moving today to deny university and college students living on campus the right to use medical marijuana even if they have the legally required doctor's recommendation for the drug.

Legislation crafted by Rep. Amanda Reeve, R-Phoenix, would make it illegal not only to use but even to possess marijuana on the campus of any public or private post-secondary institution. That would include not only the state university system and network of community colleges but also various private schools that offer degrees or certificates.

And that means not only keeping it out of classrooms and open areas.

HB2349, set for debate in the House Committee on Higher Education, also would preclude students from using the drug in dorm rooms, even if the person is drinking an infusion rather than lighting up a joint. And it would mean not having the drug among personal possession for use somewhere off campus.

"This is an attack on patients ... who are abiding by state law," said Joe Yuhas, spokesman for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association. More to the point, he said the move is illegal and vowed to sue if the measure is enacted.

The 2010 initiative spells out a list of ailments and condition that qualify an adult to seek a doctor's recommendation to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

Yuhas, whose group represents those who crafted the initiative, said the law was crafted to ban the use of the drug on public school campuses. But nothing in the voter-approved law precludes adults who have the legally required doctor's recommendation from using it elsewhere.

He said the Arizona Constitution specifically bars legislators from altering anything approved at the ballot unless the legislation "furthers the purpose" of the underlying measure. And this, he said does not.

The problem, Reeve said, is federal regulations governing universities require that they forbid students from having illegal controlled substances. She said schools that do not comply lose federal funding and financial assistance for students.

Regents spokeswoman Katie Paquet said those federal rules do have exemptions for students who have prescriptions for otherwise illegal drugs, including codeine and other narcotics. But she said -- and Reeve agreed -- that's no help for a student with a state-recognized doctor's recommendation.

"The federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the possession, use or production of marijuana, even for medical use," Reeve said.

And what of students who live in a dorm, who a doctor says can benefit from marijuana?

"They're not going to be able to use or possess marijuana on campus," Reeve responded. "That's how we deal with the issue so we can stay in compliance" with federal laws.

In any event, Reeve said the needs of a majority of students who depend directly or indirectly on federal funds outweigh those of a few students who need medical marijuana.

"Do we punish all the students so a few can have their ability to do this?" she said. "Why should all the students suffer?"

Yuhas said Reeve and others are making too much out of this particular conflict between state and federal law. He said the same conflict exists elsewhere, yet Arizona is going ahead and implementing its medical marijuana law.

"Universities aren't being asked to dispense (the drug) or host a dispensary," Yuhas said. That, he said, would raise other issues.

Yuhas also brushed aside Reeve's concern that the federal government is suddenly going to cut off aid to Arizona colleges and universities simply because they do not actively ban students with medical marijuana recommendations from having the drug, saying 15 other states have similar medical marijuana laws.

"This has not been an issue," Yuhas said. "This is a solution in search of a problem."


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Rhode Island Sounds a lot Like Arizona…….

Legal Marijuana in Arizona, but Not for the Sellers
By MARC LACEY July 22, 2011

We elect these people to make a decision....then they do NOTHING.....-UA

PHOENIX — Marijuana is known to cause red eyes, gales of laughter and the munchies. In Arizona, add another side effect: utter confusion.

Voters narrowly approved a ballot initiative last November allowing medical marijuana in the state, but the result has been just the opposite of an orderly system of dispensing cannabis to the truly sick. Rather, police raids, surreptitious money transfers and unofficial pot clubs have followed passage of the new law, creating a chaotic situation not far removed from the black-market system that has always existed.

“There’s confusion,” said Ross Taylor, who owns CannaPatient, a newly formed company that helps patients get the medical certification required to receive state-issued medical marijuana cards. “There are a lot of unsure people, and not just because of what happened to me.”

The police raided Mr. Taylor’s home in June, one of several instances in which the authorities in the state have showed signs of resisting carrying out the new law, which took effect at the start of the year.

Gov. Jan Brewer — who campaigned against the law, then signed it with reluctance — said in May that the state, which has issued more than 7,500 cards to medical marijuana patients, would delay issuing licenses to marijuana dispensaries, as the law requires. Instead, she filed suit in federal court seeking a ruling on whether the state’s medical marijuana law conflicted with federal prohibitions on marijuana. So the patients have their cards permitting them to buy marijuana in Arizona, but no official place to do so.

Arizona is not just another state when it comes to marijuana. More Mexican-grown marijuana enters this state than any other, according to federal government data. On June 8, the authorities recovered more than 1,200 pounds from an S.U.V. that led them on a 20-mile chase through dirt roads near the border.

The police operation that took place the next day in Gilbert, a community outside Phoenix, netted a considerably smaller haul: about two ounces. In that case, the police executed a search warrant on Mr. Taylor’s house after getting a tip from the cable man. The officers, Mr. Taylor said, did not appear interested in his medical marijuana card, which permits him to grow up to a dozen marijuana plants in his home or obtain up to 2.5 ounces from a caregiver or a dispensary.

The police said they were pursuing those taking advantage of the new marijuana law.

The law does not permit the sale of marijuana outside of nonprofit dispensaries. But because the state has yet to approve any such outlets to sell marijuana, other ways of getting the drug are being tried.

Last month, the police raided the offices of a group in Tempe that was growing marijuana and selling it to cardholders. Garry Ferguson, founder of the organization, the Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group, told reporters that he understood the law to allow the sale of marijuana from one cardholder to another.

Unofficial cannabis clubs, not mentioned in the law, are also emerging. They purport to offer free marijuana to cardholders, albeit for a membership fee. For now, they are unregulated.

“In lieu of a regulated industry, we’re now creating an environment in which patients are growing their own with limited oversight, and these private clubs of questionable legality are popping up,” said Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association, which led the medical marijuana campaign.

Ms. Brewer, a Republican, recently lamented “the dreadful situation” the state now finds itself in with marijuana legal for some.

Marijuana users consider the uncertainty dreadful as well, with some fearful that applying for cards might lead to police scrutiny. “I have friends who are afraid to get cards,” said Brad Scalf, 55, a disabled veteran. “I figured that when I’m smoking out on the back porch and the neighbors complain, I don’t have to worry. It’s like a get out of jail free card.”

The state’s legal case has been assigned to the same federal judge who found parts of Arizona’s immigration law to be unconstitutional. In that dispute, Arizona argued against the idea that the state should be hamstrung by federal immigration law. In this instance, the state seems to be seeking a ruling that federal law ought to prevail.

“The state has been beating the drum on states’ rights, but all of a sudden it has taken a 180-degree turn,” said Ken Frakes, a lawyer for the Rose Law Group, which represents a number of marijuana dispensary applicants.

Ms. Brewer said the decision to go to court was made to protect state employees from prosecution after Dennis K. Burke, the United States attorney for Arizona, sent a letter to state officials warning that the federal government still considered marijuana an illegal drug and would go after those who ran large marijuana production operations. Mr. Burke has subsequently said he had no intention of prosecuting state employees.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey held up carrying out his state’s medical marijuana law, one of 17 across the country, over similar concerns, but he announced this week that he would allow the program to go ahead.

In Arizona, some of the cannabis clubs are operating surreptitiously to avoid the notice of law enforcement. But not the 2811 Club, named for the provision of the law allowing state-approved marijuana patients to share marijuana among themselves.

Allan Sobol, the club’s marketing manager, has invited reporters in and offered instruction on the ins and outs of the new law to a group of Phoenix police officers. Everyone who enters must have a state-issued card, and no smoking is allowed on the premises, to prevent people from driving under the influence.

The dimly lit club offers classes and has computers and books available to research the many plant varieties, and comfortable chairs to enable patients to chat among themselves. It is the marijuana counter, though, that brings people in.

Club members, who pay a $25 application fee, also must pay $75 every time they walk through the door. Once inside, they are entitled to about 3 grams of marijuana, which is grown by other cardholders and donated to the club. Those growers, according to the law, can be compensated only for the cost of their supplies. On a recent afternoon, there were a number of varieties available, including Master Kush, Blue Dream and Granddaddy Purple.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you come in,” said Mr. Sobol, who has emerged as a spokesman for the embattled industry, but says he tried marijuana for the first time last week when he ate a salad made with marijuana dressing. “We want people to come in with dignity and get this medicine that is now legal.”

Mr. Sobol said he is convinced that the club, which is planning to expand throughout the Phoenix area, is on solid legal ground. But the club does not comply with the strict regulatory requirements for dispensaries, which has prompted state officials to order an inquiry. Mr. Sobol said that given the uncertainty surrounding the program, he would be foolhardy not to look over his shoulder. “We have to be concerned,” he said. “I have lawyers on call. They may arrest me, but if that day comes and they come barging through the front door, I’m convinced they’ll never convict me.”

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Are you qualified?

AZ newspaper searches for medical marijuana critic

Could you imagine the emails they are getting? I'm glad I don't have to sort through those resumes......-UA


TUCSON, AZ (KGUN/CNN) – A Tucson, AZ, newspaper is looking for someone to become its official medical marijuana critic.

"A lot of sick people are going to be using medical marijuana, and they're going to want to know things like how is it to park," said Tucson Weekly Editor Jimmy Boegle. "How good is the stuff they're selling in terms of helping them with their symptoms? And what are the prices, what kinds of things are offered?"

Although it seems like an easy job, not everyone can apply. The candidate must have a clean driving record, must be a registered medical marijuana patient, and cannot be working in the medical marijuana field.

"The ad makes it very clear we want someone who's going to be serious about this," Boegle said.

Boegle admits the medical marijuana critic applicants are lagging; only two people have applied.

Cesar Lopez said he would not apply, but wanted the information for a friend.

"I'm not interested in a job with the Tucson Weekly as a medical marijuana critic, although I'd like to work with the Tucson Weekly," he said. "Maybe that's a way to get my start."

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Arizona approving 80% +

About 80% of medical marijuana applicants in AZ approved so far

PHOENIX - It has been more than a week since Arizona starting receiving applications for medical marijuana cards.

The results have been surprising. About 1,000 people have applied to have the card since April 14 with approximately 80 percent of applicants being approved.

The average age for a patient is reportedly over 50 years old. Most of them live in the northern part of Phoenix from Surprise to Scottsdale.

“It reflects that fact that this may be at least so far a true medical marijuana program because as you get older you are more likely to have a real debilitating medical condition for which marijuana maybe something that you're looking for relief.”

The most common medical condition reported is chronic pain at 85 percent.

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