NEW YORK (MainStreet) When Hrach Shilgevorkyan was stopped for a traffic violation in Arizona, he was reportedly also given a blood test by police officers who found Carboxy-THC in his system. Shilgevorkyan allegedly told officers that he had smoked marijuana the night before. He was charged with driving while having an illegal drug in his body, but a trial judge subsequently dismissed the charges because his blood test did not pick up the presence of THC, setting a precedent that unless there's actual evidence that the drug impaired them, drivers cannot be found guilty of driving while intoxicated.
"It is a virtual war," said Tae Darnell. "The number of profile stops leaving cannabis-legal states has shot through the roof. Some of the supposed offenses are so absurd it makes you shake your head."
Unlike in Arizona, Oklahoma passed legislation that allows for no tolerance driving under the influence of drugs in response to Colorado legalizing marijuana, which means a driver who is found with any amount of marijuana or one of its metabolites or analogs in his or her body is guilty.
"The problem with this legislation is it assumes that any sign of marijuana in your system means you are under the influence but this is simply not true," said Todd Kernal, a lawyer with Laird Hammons Laird law firm in Oklahoma City. "A person who legally smoked marijuana in Denver two weeks before he gets stopped in Oklahoma is most definitely not under the influence of the drug, but it can be found in his system."
Other border states to Colorado include Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico and Nebraska.
"You have a lot of people from border states driving into Colorado to buy marijuana and then leaving," said Nick Fishman, executive vice president of EmployeeScreenIQ.
In Oklahoma courts, there is no charge for carrying marijuana across state lines, according to legal experts. However if the volume being moved is large enough, the Federal Government may choose to get involved.
25 pounds is the minimum weight required and can subject a person to four years to life and a fine of $25,000 up to $100,000.
"If a person in Oklahoma is caught possessing a large amount of marijuana he can be charged with trafficking," Kemal told MainStreet. "And if you are convicted of a drug possession charge involving a motor vehicle, Oklahoma will suspend your driver's license."
While a first time simple possession charge is a misdemeanor in Oklahoma, a person charged with second or subsequent possession will be charged with a felony if the state can show conviction for a previous marijuana charge within the last ten years.
"There are no automatic expungements that I am aware of as a result of legalization," Fishman told MainStreet. "Those with such offenses would still have to petition the court as usual for such convictions."
Until then, beware because second offenses in Oklahoma, for example, carry two to ten years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet