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.”
The Florida Division of Elections today confirmed that proponents of a 2014 statewide measure to allow for the physician-supervised use of cannabis have gathered sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
The measure seeks to authorize doctors to recommend cannabis therapy to their patients at their discretion and authorizes the state Department of Health to register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.
Backers of the measure, United for Care, turned in over 683,000 valid signatures from Florida voters to qualify the measure. The initiative seeks to amend the state constitution.
Survey data released in November by Quinnipiac University reported that 82 percent of Florida voters support reforming state law to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana. Because the proposed measure seeks to amend the state constitution, 60 percent of voters must decide in favor of it before it may be enacted.
Proponents of the measure still await a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court as to whether the measure will appear before voters this fall. State Attorney General Pam Bondi is contesting the language of the measure in a suit backed by House Speaker Will Weatherford, Senate President Don Gaetz and Gov. Rick Scott.
The state Supreme Court must decide on the issue by April 1.
On Thursday November 21, US law enforcement agents, along with local police officers raided 14 medical marijuana locations around Colorado (including dispensaries, grow warehouses and 2 private residences), making it one of the largest federal raids since the state’s medical marijuana laws went into effect. A search warrant identifies 10 target subjects, noting alleged violations to the latest DOJ memo dealing with state pot laws that contradict federal policy.
On August 29th, the Justice Department issued a memo to federal prosecutors indicating it wouldn’t interfere with legal marijuana businesses that are acting compliance with state law, so long as they strictly adhere to eight specific areas of concern such as preventing distribution to minors and cultivation on public lands. Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Denver said that “there are strong indications that more than one of the eight federal prosecution priorities identified in the Department of Justice’s August guidance memo are potentially implicated.” Two of those violations appear to include trafficking marijuana outside of states where it has been legalized and money laundering. No arrests have been made in this case as of yet.
Many of the locations raided on Thursday had multiple marijuana-related businesses at a single address. According to the Denver Post, “Investigators believe the businesses that were raided are all “one big operation…[and that] those targeted in the raids had been actively purchasing area dispensaries and growhouses over a sustained period of time.”
Juan Guardarrama, One of the named targets, is known to have a criminal history with potential ties to Cuban and Colombian drug gangs, according to the Miami Herald. In 2012 Guardarrama, who is also referred to as “Tony Montana” from the Al Pacino movie “Scarface,” asked undercover police officers to transport his CO-grown marijuana to Florida and?to?”take out”?his?partner. He pleaded guilty earlier this year in Miami in a racketeering case.
This case clearly has a lot of moving parts, and more information is needed to understand the full scope of the situation. But, if evidence proves that there have been large-scale violations to any of the recent DOJ memo’s eight areas of concern, one can’t be surprised that the federal government would act in accordance to its own guidelines. As more information emerges, the public will get a better understanding of the story and the alleged players involved in this operation.
It’s no secret that there has been a proliferation government agencies across the country removing minors and infants from their home, based solely on the fact that a parent is a cannabis consumer, and the false presumption that the presence of marijuana poses a danger. This even occurs in states with a legal medical marijuana program, or where marijuana possession is no longer a criminal offense. Some of these experiences can be incredibly traumatic to the child, as well as the parents, as officers have a tendency to use aggressive and sometimes militaristic tactics while engaging with these families.
NORML receives dozens of calls and emails every month from devastated parents who have lost custody of their children to state agencies, and we remain committed to providing support and resources to those forced into these unfortunate circumstances. In light of such efforts, we are pleased to announce that NORML has recently partnered with the newly formed Family Law and Cannabis Alliance (FLCA), founded by longtime drug reform activists Jess Cochrane and Sara Arnold. The FLCA is an informational clearinghouse that provides educational resources, advocacy information and legal referrals geared toward reformers & affected families on the crossover of marijuana laws & the child protection system.
Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach said, she is “looking forward to working with the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance to raise awareness about the devastating effects, and sometimes dangerous practice, of child services in removing children from their safe and loving homes for the mere fact a parent is a cannabis consumer. It is time to end this destructive policy, and put an end to marijuana prohibition once and for all.”
Click here for more information on the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance.
United States Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a lower court ruling upholding the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I prohibited substance that lacks medical utility or adequate safety.
In January, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the US Drug Enforcement Administration had acted properly when it rejected an administrative petition calling for a scientific review of marijuana’s safety and therapeutic efficacy. Petitioners had requested a hearing to determine whether existing science contradicts the federal categorization of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance that possesses “a high potential for abuse;” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment;” and “a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.” The DC Court of Appeals affirmed the DEA’s position that insufficient clinical studies exist to warrant a judicial review of cannabis’ federally prohibited status. On Monday, the US Supreme Court denied an appeal to review that decision, rejecting petitioners’ argument that adequate peer-reviewed studies already exist to sufficiently contradict the plant’s placement in Schedule I – the same classification as heroin and PCP.
The DEA’s stance willfully ignores volumes of scientific studies. For example, a 2012 review of FDA-approved clinical trials assessing the safety and therapeutic efficacy of cannabis, published in The Open Neurology Journal, concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification [of marijuana] is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
The case is Americans for Safe Access et al. v. Drug Enforcement Administration, case number 13-84, in the United State’s Supreme Court.