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Arizona Officials Crack Down on High Drivers as Cannabis DUIs Increase

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Following the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Arizona, the state is beginning to crack down on cannabis DUIs, as reports of driving high increase.

Law enforcement agencies across the state are receiving grant funding, which will go toward training and equipment to help determine tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) intoxication and drug impairment while driving. Funding was given to the state following the passage of Prop. 207.

“That’s what is so important, to have this funding available for the police agencies, insurance offices and, of course, DPS to be able to do better enforcement,” Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Alberto Gutier told ABC 15.

The Department of Public Safety is being given more than $1 million to split between the Highway Patrol Division and State Crime lab, which will be used to increase the number of trained drug recognition experts and phlebotomists, streamline the analysis of THC samples and reduce the turnaround time for DUI lab testing.

Gutier said, “Not only the accuracy, but also the timelessness is very critical. That when the crime lab processes any kind of blood coming from any part of the state, that the crime lab does it in a timely manner.”

In addition, the Avondale Police Department is being awarded funding to combat impaired driving.

“We want to try to rule out if they do have a controlled substance in their system—if that was a factor with whether or not they were impaired as a driver,” said Lauren Evans, PIO at Avondale Police Department.

The department will also purchase drone and radar equipment, which will be used to reconstruct more serious collision scenes where there’s a fatality or serious injury to gather up as much evidence as possible. 

All around, Arizona state data shows that arrests have increased substantially as drugged driving has become more prevalent. Numbers have jumped from around 1,153 in 2009 to more than 7,140 in 2019, a 519-percent increase over 10 years.

Part of the problem currently is that THC in someone’s system does not automatically mean that person is currently intoxicated, which is something states like Arizona are working to combat.

“I think it’s much more difficult now for the prosecution to sustain a conviction because now, just having active THC in a driver’s system is not enough to prove the DUI. It’s not an automatic DUI anymore. Now, the state is required to prove that that level of THC was sufficient, that it actually caused that driver to be impaired,” said Tom Dean, cannabis attorney in Phoenix.