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Is legalized recreational marijuana on the horizon in Arizona?

As attitudes regarding the legalization of marijuana continue to shift across the country, residents of Arizona may soon find themselves presented with another opportunity to cast their vote for or against the legal possession and recreational use of marijuana by adults. While this would hardly be the first time that voters in the state would be facing this choice at the ballot box, many residents seem to feel that the outcome could be different this time around, which begs the question - how would legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes impact the already strict laws in place to regulate DUIs within our state?


What is HCR 2037?

The resolution in question, House Concurrent Resolution 2037 (HCR 2037, for short) will still have to be passed by both the Arizona House and Senate before it will even be on the November ballots for voters - but if it is passed, the resolution would seek to allow adults who are 21 years of age and older to use marijuana for recreational purposes. This would not only allow them to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana, but would also allow the growth of up to six plants in their home - although homegrown plants would need to be grown out of public view and the actual use of marijuana in public places would still be prohibited.

At present, marijuana is legal for medical use in Arizona, and this has been the case since the passage of Proposition 203 back in 2010. Where previous efforts to fully legalize the drug since then have fallen short, the last vote on this matter failed by only a slim margin. Some believe the vote had more to do with concerns regarding the restricted licensing component, of which businesses would be allowed to sell recreational marijuana, rather than the way in which it could or would be used.

Marijuana and DUIs in Arizona

One topic that continues to resurface each time the possible legalization of recreational marijuana is on the table is the impact that this would have on the current enforcement of Arizona’s strict DUI laws. It is possible that some fine tuning to the current DUI laws may be in order if marijuana does get legalized for recreational use. This will particularly be the case if more accurate methods of drug testing and more stringent measurements of what can be considered impairment are developed and adopted by the state. It is more likely that the existing laws will still function in largely the same manner as they do now.

This is because Arizona already treats drug related DUI charges and alcohol related DUI charges with the same basic degree of severity. Someone who is found to be either driving or who is technically in physical control of their vehicle while impaired to any degree by either drugs or alcohol may currently be found guilty of a DUI under A.R.S.§ 28-1381. (For more about the “control of the vehicle” issue, please read our recent post about DUI arrests for sleeping off a buzz while sitting behind the wheel.)

However, there is also a possibility that law enforcement will respond to the legalization of recreational marijuana more in the form of increased vigilance and a more watchful eye to catch the subtle signs of a driver who may be under the influence. 

Arizona takes driving under the influence of any substance that could impair you very seriously and the penalties for doing so if convicted will be steep. If you have been charged with a marijuana related DUI and would like to discuss the legal options you may have available to you with an experienced attorney, we invite you to contact our office today for a free case evaluation. 

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We support Scottsdale's Taste of the Town festival that benefits the local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association as well as the annual Toys for Tots campaign. Our firm also contributes to a number of other local organizations, including Home 'Fur' Good, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating the euthanasia of adoptable homeless cats and dogs in Maricopa County.
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