Pubdate: Wed, 23 Apr 2014
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2014 The Arizona Republic
Page: 26
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


Rulings on Medicaid Expansion and Traces of Pot in Drivers' Blood Are 
Sure to Bring More Drama.

A pair of rulings from Arizona courts leave the state's residents 
wondering what's next. The most far-reaching - and potentially costly 
- - comes from the Arizona Court of Appeals, which reinstated a lawsuit 
filed by GOP lawmakers on the losing side of last year's vote to 
expand the state's Medicaid program.

The Appeals Court said a lower court was wrong to dismiss the case on 
the grounds lawmakers had no standing to sue. It sent the case back 
to be decided on its merits.

At issue is the Legislature's requirement for a two-thirds majority 
to pass a tax increase. Brewer argued a hospital assessment that will 
be leveraged to bring in a generous federal match is not a tax, and 
lawmakers themselves could decide what triggered the requirement for 
a supermajority vote.

The Appeals Court said if the 36 GOP lawmakers on the losing side 
were correct about the need for a supermajority, then their votes had 
been devalued. They could have defeated the bill. That gave them standing.

And it's not up to legislators to decide when a supermajority is 
required, the court asserted. That's the judiciary's job.

Brewer says she plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. She should.

There is no question expansion was the right thing to do.

The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association expressed 
disappointment at the ruling, saying it "only serves to continue the 
pain and confusion for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans" who might 
lose coverage.

Hospitals supported expanding Medicaid because they pay the 
uncompensated costs for those who end up seeking care in the emergency room.

Arizonans twice voted to expand health care coverage to 100 percent 
of poverty level. The state would face huge costs to care for those 
people without federal matching dollars, and it will lose that match 
if it does not expand Medicaid to those earning up to 133 percent of 
poverty, as required by the law the sore-loser lawmakers are challenging.

Expansion makes sense on humanitarian and economic grounds. But this 
decision puts it back in court, creating unnecessary doubts.

Pot traces in blood

Questions also linger following the Arizona Supreme Court's ruling on 
traces of pot in drivers' bloodstreams.

The court says motorists can't be charged with DUI solely because 
they have marijuana metabolites in their system. That practice, 
advocated by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, "leads to 
absurd results," the state's highest court said.

Inactive marijuana metabolites can remain in the system long after 
the high - or impairment - is gone. Using the presence of metabolites 
unfairly burdens an estimated 40,000 people who have 
medical-marijuana cards, enabling them to legally buy and use the drug.

OK. We have concerns. Medical marijuana smells more like a backdoor 
to legalizing recreational use of pot. But charging people with DUI 
simply because they have marijuana metabolites in their system looks 
like a backdoor way to subvert a voter-approved law that prosecutors dislike.

The court's decision makes sense in the context of Arizona's 
medical-marijuana law.

But cops and prosecutors need a way to keep pot-high drivers off the 
road. That's as important as dealing with drunk drivers. Using the 
presence of metabolites alone was an unreliable way to determine 
impairment. A more reliable method needs to be developed.

These court decisions don't resolve much. Like an old-fashioned 
cliffhanger, they promise more drama to come.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom