The Arizona Supreme Court this week rejected a 1990 state law that classified the presence of inert THC metabolites in blood or urine as a per se traffic safety violation.
Carboxy-THC, the primary metabolite (breakdown product) of THC is not psychoactive. Because it is lipid soluble, the metabolite may remain detectable in blood or urine for periods of time that extend well beyond any suspected period of impairment. As a result, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges, “It is … currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations.”
Nonetheless, under Arizona law, the mere presence of carboxy THC — absent any evidence of behavioral impairment — was considered to be a criminal violation of the state’s traffic safety laws. (Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah impose similar statutes.) On Wednesday, the Court struck down the provision.
Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Brutinel opined: “The State’s interpretation that ‘its metabolite’ includes any byproduct of a drug listed in § 13-3401 found in a driver’s system leads to absurd results. … Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect. For example, at oral argument the State acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.”
He added: “Additionally, this interpretation would criminalize otherwise legal conduct. In 2010, Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”), legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite the legality of such use, and because § 28-1381(A)(3) does not require the State to prove that the marijuana was illegally ingested, prosecutors can charge legal users under the (A)(3) provision. Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion, the State’s position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana.”
The Court concluded: “Because the legislature intended to prevent impaired driving, we hold that the ‘metabolite’ reference in § 28-1381(A)(3) is limited to any of a proscribed substance’s metabolites that are capable of causing impairment. Accordingly, … drivers cannot be convicted of the (A)(3) offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.”
The Court did not address provisions in the state’s per se DUI law outlawing the operation of a motor vehicle with any presence of THC in one’s blood even though, according to NHTSA, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”
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Prohibition of marijuana is a premise built upon a tissue of lies: Concern For Public Safety. Our new law in Michigan saves hundreds of lives every year, on the highways alone. In November of 2011 a study at the University of Colorado found that, in the thirteen states that legalized medical marijuana between 1990 and 2009, traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly nine percent—now nearly ten percent in Michigan–while sales of beer went flat by five percent. No wonder Big Alcohol opposes it. Ambitious, unprincipled, profit-driven undertakers might be tempted too.
In 2012 a study released by 4AutoinsuranceQuote cited statistics revealing that marijuana users are safer drivers than non-marijuana users, as “the only significant effect that marijuana has on operating on a motor vehicle is slower driving”, which “is arguably a positive thing”. Imagine the further reduction in fatalities if marijuana were legalized for all adults.
Marijuana has many benefits, most of which are under-reported or never mentioned in American newspapers. Research at the University of Saskatchewan indicates that, unlike alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or Nancy (“Just say, ‘No!’”) Reagan’s beloved nicotine, marijuana actually encourages brain-cell growth. Research in Spain (the Guzman study) and other countries has discovered that it has tumor-shrinking, anti-carcinogenic properties. These were confirmed by the 30-year Tashkin population study at UCLA.
Drugs are man-made, cooked up in labs, for the sake of patents and the profits gained by them. They are often useful, but typically come with cautionary notes and lists of side effects as long as one’s arm. ‘The works of Man are flawed.’
Marijuana is a medicinal herb, the most benign and versatile in history. “Cannabis” in Latin, and “kaneh bosm” in the old Hebrew scrolls, quite literally the Biblical Tree of Life, used by early Christians to treat everything from skin diseases to deep pain and despair. The very name, “Christ” translates as “the anointed one”. Well then, anointed with what? It’s a fair question. And it wasn’t holy water, friends. Holy water came into wide use in the Middle Ages.
Medicinal oil, for the Prince of Peace. A formula from the Biblical era has been rediscovered. It specifies a strong dose of oil from kaneh bosm, ‘the fragrant cane’ of a dozen uses: ink, paper, rope, nutrition. . . . It was clothing on their backs and incense in their temples. And a ‘skinful’ of medicinal oil could certainly calm one’s nerves, imparting a sense of benevolence and connection with all living things. No wonder that the ‘anointed one’ could gain a spark, an insight, a sense of the divine, and the confidence to convey those feelings to friends and neighbors.
What gets to me are the politicians, prosecutors, and police who pose on church steps or kneeling in prayer on their campaign trails, but can’t face the scientific or the historical truth about cannabis, Medicinal Herb Number One, safe and effective for thousands of years, and celebrated by most of the world’s major religions.
Wow,, Finally the truth is coming out.
Smells like Big Pharma is setting up
the system to get their products
available to use, the big money has
their plan in motion, either way
We will all get to partay in the light of day pretty soon.
Almost all drivers get into accidents, I don’t care who you are or how straight or stoned you are. Don’t drive high, just don’t do it. But that goes for prescription codine, sleeping pills, and any drug that could impare the driver.
The person that comes up with an accurate high or not high machine for cops to test drivers with will be a billionaire.
Or our police can just administer a sobriety test and save a lot of money. Why is this not enough?
Holy fkn’s shlt Batman. this is huge. i cant remember the last time a high court decision came down that didnt kiss up to either a political group( the D’s and R’s ) or the rich and or powerful corporate types. a simple ruling to protect the people from the government. this will not be allowed to stand unchallenged. remember,when the r’s and d’s agree at any time at all. LOOK the F OUT.
Great! Hopefully, the country will reject this latest waste of time and taxpayer money conceived by the prohibitionists. Laws should be passed to make the roadways safer for us all, not punish us for driving stone, cold sober.
Incidentally, I played music in red neck bars back in the day. I also worked as a geologist and know that geologists and engineers in the oil & gas industry may stay up for 2-3 days when called to a well site. I saw just as many problems including maimings and deaths involving sleep deprivation as I did with alcohol intoxication.
So, I have a lawsuit against the ILWU up here in Dutch Harbor pending concerning this very issue. Am hoping to get NORMAL to write a brief on my behalf as FRIENDS OF THE COURT.
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This is the rationale that led to responsible consumption and tolerable cultural restrictions, regulation, and taxation of alcohol. Why has it taken seventy years? Why has this nation turned a blind eye towards confiscation and destruction of personal properties without due process? Education is the key, not prohibition, of anything….tolerance is a two way excursion that leads to acceptance and deliverance from the evils of tyranny and abuses of absolute power.
Reading this great example of American justice where U.S. Law meets U.S. Science, then subsequently reading the active outreach going on this page from N.O.R.M.L. makes me devoutly moved and inspired. Even though I have to defend my own case in a San Antonio court next wednesday, to celebrate my victory im going to drive to Austin to attend the open N.O.R.M.L. meeting in Austin May 7th at the Flamingo Cantina with Democratic agricultural commissioner candidate Kinky Friedman. Hope to get Texas moving like Arizona!
The sound reasoning from the bench,
“Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Brutinel opined: “The State’s interpretation that ‘its metabolite’ includes any byproduct of a drug listed in § 13-3401 found in a driver’s system leads to absurd results. … Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect. For example, at oral argument the State acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.”
That could be viewed as a strong stance on the matter of cannabis in any regard, considering there has been a severe and unambiguous lack of statements from the judiciary regarding cannabis, since the Hon. Francis Young made his appeal to reschedule cannabis, based on scientific and pharmacological reasoning, not just ad hoc schedulings by Nixon, Mitchell, and their shill doctor panel.
If cannabis is to be scheduled within a categorical ‘priority’ of sorts, then it should be so placed, based on the potential danger or harm to the user, and not done arbitrarily, but by protocol. It should be u s e f u l in some way, and consistent.
So the same argument can be applied to another matter of public policy, and privacy rights, and that is mandatory drug testing for employees or students.
If the scheduling system cannot serve in that simple role of assisting the citizenry in being informed about a particular matter, in order to make better decisions, then what good is it? It’s actually a scale of how severely punished the possession or use of a CSA drug is, a measure of how badly one is being unjustly treated for a non-crime. “Let the punishment fit the crime.” -Spinoza
Association (mostly possession) with the “safest therapeutically active substance known to man,” (Judge Young), has resulted in one-quarter of the penitentiary population and half of federal inmates.
Judge Young acknowledged that a therapeutically active substance is medicine. Cannabis is so non-toxic relative to anything else that even *if* cannabis did not also provide medicinal benefits (it does) along with its use as a recreational drug, due to it’s known safety (no deaths attributable to cannabis in history).
Cannabis was the first plant cultivated by humans. Cannabis and humans formed a mutual relationship much as humans formed relationships with the wolf ancestors of our household dogs. No other single plant provides all the essential amino acids. Staple crops like corn + rice, beans + rice, other staples have to be mixed together to get all eight essential amino acids. Cannabis basically “showed” people how to grow it as they simply observed its natural flowering and annual cycles.
Cannabis has been with us since the beginning, for its utility, as food (essential amino acids, essential fatty acids (e.g. omega-6), fiber, medicine,
Botanist Michael Pollan describes the relationship as cannabis genes affecting our genes, in turn giving them the tremendous evolutionary advantage of having human care-takers ensure their proliferation, through the molecules, nutrients, medicines, that it creates, by chance. Molecules that fit in the cannabinoid receptor so ancient it can be found on cell surfaces of every mammal and through they phylogentic tree, down to invertebrates.
Substances that strongly mimic and function like normal endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, in the body, are provided by cannabis. Perhaps we became dependent on their supplementation as exocannabinoids, exogenous or environmental, in abundance, over a very long period, from cannabis (first plant cultivated, yes)
Perhaps it was so ubiquitous, a constant of life, that even a mutation that led to decreased production of natural cannabinoids like anandamide, might be overcome or concealed,
A person may no longer be “high,” or “impaired” even when metabolites are present in the body. The breakdown products of cannabis are still present days or weeks later, excreted minutely over time.
Drug testing costs a lot yet disregards the importance of how substances are metabolized, digested, over time. This inherent flaw of drug testing nevertheless continues to be insufficient for policy makers to end the practice, themselves, on behalf of their constituents. This, instead of feigning “concern” while being two-faced.
It is not a practical test for drugs, usually 5 or more, they typically test for. It is a pointed test for cannabis.
If they did not have cannabis on the list of drugs they arbitrarily decided to be “enemies of the workplace,” eventually they would find themselves out of business because the use of drugs that pose much more actual health risk, can be concealed easily with relatively brief abstinence, or with a prescription.
Costly, unreliable and non-predictive results, from an ongoing bureacratic ripoff, from manipulators and lobbyists who force drug testing into public policy, for undeserved revenue.
What kind of effectiveness ratings would they get, when job seekers know to expect a drug test for employment as the norm, but they couldn’t test for cannabis metabolites?
The answer is the same for “how could they keep over-filling privatized prisons if cannabis were no longer a jailable offense?”
Similarly, “how do you drastically increase the price or value of any normally commonplace commodity?” Make it rare, on purpose.
@ jimmy, excellent post.
I once read how cannabinoids have been found in puffer fish, confirming as you suggest that the endocannabinoid system evolved before mammals branched off from fish. As a result, the prohibition of cannabis is the prohibition of an ancient human symbiot that provides nothing less than a vital, cultural coexistence of humankind with our living planet.
The moral dilemma we are faced with today is posed in the following question; Is it ethical to patent cannabinoids any more or less than to patent exocannabinoids?
As for the morality of testing for sobriety, I completely agree with Ray here that a simple field sobriety test should suffice for law enforcement. Otherwise we’re all pissing submissively at Robert DuPont’s house so that the private drug testing industry can profit off of watching us urinate. And where does that really take us as a Nation?
alRight arizona!! Power to the people! Our next goal is to finaly legalize! I know we can! “Power to the people, down with the feds”
The American experiment to remove cannabis from our food supply is a disaster. Obesity, cancers, Parkinson’s, MS, Dravet, Alzheimer’s, addiction, PTSD and brain injuries could potentially be reversed if cannabinoids are allowed to enter our bodies.We already know cannabis relieves the symptoms, let’s find out if heals (i say it does).
People die every day from drunk drivers, we still don’t prohibit adults from drinking alcohol. Shit, people die every day from stupid drivers, we certainly don’t prohibit stupid.
Thank-you Norml, the message in finally getting to the right ears!!! I’ve been so distraught over the judicial rubberstamping of these bullshit laws. We seen decades of stupidity enshrined as the law of the land and no relief from the judges. This reversal has giving me hope in our court system again.
Well done Arizona! It would be absolutely absurd if one could be prosecuted for the mere existence of metabolites, as the time of ingestion and time of impairment, given that there was a time in which the consumer was actually impaired to some degree, could have occurred at a time in which the individual was not operating a motor vehicle.
Keep the faith,
After Florida passes their medicinal legislation this November more than %50 of the U.S. Population will have pro-cannabis measures in their states. This means the Supreme Court will finally be at liberty to even hear a potentially pro-marijuana case… Even though our justices are already pro-marijuana!
Democracy starts at home.
Julian, I’m not sure how “pro-cannabis” the Supreme Court is though. I think they are a bit more “pro-constitution” than they are pro-buds… I also suspect they would be “pro-fascists” letting them own patents on things related to marijuana and Cannabis that should be public domain.
So far most “legalization” bills and laws already on the books still leave marijuana and/or Cannabis a crime simply based on the amount present being over a certain amount, which while no longer supporting a “zero-tolerance policy” are still in general support of the broken ideas and beliefs behind the War on Drugs.
Tieing the amount of marijuana to there being an occurance of the commision of a crime is still a ludicrous idea. Now when you actually do something bad with marijuana, like sell to minors, then I can see it being a crime, but simply the amount being a crime?
Having “too much bud” should only be a finable “offense” and marijuana any amount completely “de-criminalized”. For example, if you’re shipping tons of weed illegally to avoid taxes that would be a crime worth arresting people for. But for have a couple of ounces in the car? It is still rather stupid and still a waste of law enforcement resources.
I just read the NORML article on the reversal decision in Arizona’s Supreme
Court regarding the THC metabolites that remain in a user’s (or formal
user’s) system as it pertains to motor vehicle driving laws e.g. “under the
“Because it is lipid soluble, the metabolite may remain detectable in blood or urine for periods of time that extend well beyond any suspected period of impairment… Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as
many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion, the State’s position
suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving
any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana.”
*This statement made by Justice Robert Brutinel is grossly incorrect, *as
is the (mis)understanding of the majority of almost all court and penal
systems, along with the general population. This myth needs to be cleared
up for the sake of a clear and correct understanding AND more importantly,
for legal decisions and actions taken by court and penal systems in
individuals’ cases going forward.
I personally have paid the price for this misunderstanding, myth and
position held by our legal system: I was arrested and convicted of
cannabis possession in 2010 for having cannabis plants growing in a bedroom
of my home for my personal use; as a means to mitigate arthritis pain
brought upon by a disease I have had since birth.
After my plea to a felony, I was assigned to a Drug Treatment Court Program
where I was tested for all drugs three (3) times per week at the Probation
department. This was done through a urine sample and the results were
available within three minutes through their testing method. *This test
showed me positive for 70 days — yes, 70 days.
I also was mandated to attend an outpatient clinic, where I provided a
urine sample no less than once per week. That sample was sent out to an
independent lab where I was showing positive for 90 days, using
the presence of nanograms of the metabolite in the urine. On Day 64 and
on Day 75 after my last use of cannabis, my lab results came back with
actual “spikes”, showing higher readings than previous test results. As a
result of these readings, I was incarcerated unjustly both times, when in
fact, I had not used or even been in the presence of cannabis in the periods of time stated above.
After researching this phenomenon, I found that due to the fact that the
THC metabolite is water soluble, it was stored and being released from my
fat cells as a result of strenuous bicycling/exercise. In other words;
dehydration released it from the fat cells, to the bloodstream, to the
kidneys, to the bladder. I pleaded with the Court, telling all in
attendance both times that I had not used or have even been in the presence
of cannabis since I started the program. I even offered to personally pay
for a lie detector test to prove my innocence. I was denied and
subsequently sent to jail both times.
The Court’s response, and backed up by the outpatient clinic, was that
this metabolite only stays in the body for 30 days at most. In addition,
I was even accused of using small amounts of cannabis all along that kept
showing in the tests, but in small amounts that allowed my concentration to
consistently go down, all while still using ! The two spikes in my testing
took my case and my argument over the line, and I was unjustly jailed.
Even the public defenders were absolutely clueless until I educated them.
If a public defender is utilized in the Drug Treatment Program as counsel
for the participants then doesn’t it make sense that they are knowledgeable
about the subject matter at hand…
The Court’s position is this, and I quote them: “We are not scientists. We
rely on these tests to determine use or no-use and guilty or not guilty of
using. My response was this: “If ANY court system or clinic is going to
use this information to determine and mete out penalties to an individual
— up to AND including incarceration, then you people should take the
initiative *and responsibility *to educate yourselves as to what these
tests are showing, and how these test results come about. You people fall
short of your responsibility of finding out all of the facts. If the
average Joe can do the homework and get the facts, then certainly any
entity that has the power to incarcerate an individual based on test
results, has the moral and legal commitment and the responsibility to know
the facts, and act accordingly on that knowledge and commitment for fair
and just treatment …”
Not only did I experience two stints incarcerated when I was indeed
innocent, I also was remanded to inpatient care where I bore the financial
burden of paying the price of that care to the tune of $15,000 out-of-pocket.
Bottom line to this entire ugly scenario is that due to how these tests
were interpreted incorrectly, I spent two stays in jail, ten days in a
crisis center, three weeks in inpatient care, and an extended stay in
outpatient care — all at my expense. I lost five weeks of freedom and a
sizeable amount of my life savings. Adding insult to injury, there were
members of the Drug Treatment Court Program, the crisis center, the inpatient care facility, and the outpatient care facility that truly knew, and told me, that they know that this happens.
I won’t apologize for getting upset and getting sometimes on the verge of
being irate when I hear of these “knowledgeable experts” out there that
keep spewing this absolute fallacy and falsehood that the THC metabolite
that is tested for to determine usage of cannabis is a 28 to 30-day
phenomenon. It is a total fallacy; and law enforcement, the legal
community of attorneys, the court system, and the penal system need to
change their grossly incorrect position on this matter or the injustices
to innocent individuals such as myself will continue.
Make sure to inform any acquaintances that are seeking jobs, being screened for any reason or are dealing with legal issues and the courts that the THC metabolite can be detected up to 100 days, depending on the length of use, frequency of use, strength of the cannabis, and the lifestyle led by the individual as it pertains to exercising.
Thank you for allowing me to speak the truth. We, as a (responsible) society, have quite a way to go…
[Paul Armentano responds: The carboxy THC metabolite indeed may be present in urine for extended periods of time beyond 30 days. The review linked here notes a case study of a subject testing positive 110 days after controlled abstinence: http://norml.org/pdf_files/Review_biologic_matrices_indicators_cannabis_use.pdf. But, specific to the ruling in Arizona, the Court was peaking to the presence of carboxy THC and/or THC in blood, not urine.]
“After researching this phenomenon, I found that due to the fact that the THC metabolite is water soluble, it was stored and being released from my fat cells as a result of strenuous bicycling/exercise. In other words; dehydration released it from the fat cells, to the bloodstream, to the kidneys, to the bladder. I pleaded with the Court, telling all in attendance both times that I had not used or have even been in the presence of cannabis since I started the program. I even offered to personally pay for a lie detector test to prove my innocence. I was denied and subsequently sent to jail both times.”
And now these lying pieces of shit owe you money. Not my money, not taxpayer’s money, it needs to come out of their pockets. The god damn lying judges’ and polices’ pockets.
They know all that, you’re there to punished for their entertainment. They have know marijuana is safe and not really illegal since 1972. Every single person prosecuted since then for selling and/or owning marijuana is the victim of a crime. It really is this simple, when are we going to start acting like it??????