Recreational marijuana has now been legal in Arizona since January of this year. But it is still illegal to ingest it and then get into a car and drive.
Peoria police caution drivers not to drive while under the influence, because although it is now legal, it is not legal to drive while under the influence of any drug, including marijuana.
The department has not specifically tracked arrests on marijuana DUIs because making a DUI arrest is made based on observations of the driver’s impairment, whatever the impairment may be.
Probable cause for a DUI ticket can be swerving, violating a traffic infraction, or any number of other observable behaviors.
For marijuana, observations that give officers probable cause for driving while under the influence could include a number of things ranging from red eyes to the odor of cannabis, or paraphernalia found inside the vehicle.
Officer Anthony Peccia, a spokesman for the Peoria Police Department, said procedures have not changed in making a DUI arrest since recreational marijuana became legal.
If an officer establishes impairment, it indicates the driver should not be driving, even though the officer may not know what the driver is under the influence of.
“Based on the behaviors people display when under the influence of marijuana, a field sobriety test is effective when an officer is establishing their reasonable suspicion for a DUI investigation,” he said.
While it is hard to say whether more people have been driving under the influence of marijuana since it was legalized, Peccia said legalization has likely enticed more people to smoke it now that there is nothing legally holding them back.
Some people may understand how they may feel after having one beer over dinner or a couple drinks at a party, but those new to marijuana are unfamiliar with how they will feel after a couple drags of TCH or eating an edible. And then getting into a car could have disastrous effects, he said.
Peccia advises residents to be responsible with using recreational marijuana and never to drive an automobile after using it.
“It’s always a roll of the dice with DUIs,” he said.
Editor’s note: Philip Haldiman is the news editor for the Peoria Independent.