Man with medical marijuana card arrested for DUI-drug

Jon Johnson File Photo: A Safford Police officer arrested a man with a medical marijuana car for DUI-drug after determining the man was too impaired to drive.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – A medical marijuana card allows the cardholder to legally possess up to two ounces of cannabis but it does not make them immune from DUI charges. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, Derrick Paz, 22, was arrested for DUI-drug after being pulled over in his truck at about 9:07 p.m. for a speeding violation. 

According to a Safford Police report, Paz was caught on radar traveling 47 mph in a 35 mph-zone of U.S. Highway 70. 

The officer reported that when he attempted to pull Paz over, the driver pulled into the center lane near Big O Tires. After being instructed to pull to the right, Paz reportedly drove east and signaled to turn left across traffic and pulled into the front of the Jon’s Heating and Cooling building. Having no room to pull in behind him, the officer instructed Paz to move forward and he reportedly drove into oncoming traffic for about a half a block until pulling into a lot across the street from the Circle K. 

Upon contact, the officer noted the smell of marijuana, and Paz showed the officer his medical marijuana card and advised he had last smoked marijuana that morning.

However, after failing field sobriety tests, the officer said it appeared that Paz had smoked more recently than this morning and Paz allegedly admitted to smoking a short time before driving. Paz also allegedly said it was a bad idea to do so and that he was “probably not” ok to drive. 

After placing Paz under arrest for DUI-drug, the officer performed a search of the car and found an aluminum can that appeared to have been used to smoke marijuana as well as a small package of cannabis. The officer recovered the can and marijuana to hold as evidence. 

The truck was released to a friend at the scene, and Paz was taken to the Safford Police Department. After a blood draw, Paz was released to his friend who picked up the truck. 

Charges are pending lab test analysis of the blood, however, Arizona does not have a set limit amount for how much THC in a person’s blood constitutes a positive for DUI for those with a medical marijuana card like it does for alcohol. Instead, as with prescription medication, a DUI conviction relies on whether the driver was impaired, not whether the driver tests positive for the presence of marijuana or prescription medication.

Those who do not possess a medical marijuana card can receive a DUI-dug conviction for merely having the drug in their blood even if they smoked the previous day and are not impaired to any degree.