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Drugged Driving Ruling by MI Supreme Court

Once again, the Michigan Supreme Court has reached a decision on how our state’s medical marijuana law (MMMA) should be enforced. The previous case ended up shutting down dispensaries, and this case had the potential to ban driving for those using medical marijuana. However, this time the court upheld the right of medical marijuana patients to drive with THC in their systems.

Had the court ruled the other way, it is likely that medical marijuana card holders would be prevented from driving at all, since the drug stays in a person’s system for weeks.

At the center of the case is the lack of solid science on what constitutes a level of THC that causes impairment. Unlike alcohol, which has a statutory level that is defined as “over the limit” (in Michigan, a BAC at 0.08 or higher), marijuana doesn’t have a firm number.

The court had to decide which law, the MMMA or existing law under the Michigan Vehicle Code. The Code prohibits the use of intoxicating drugs while driving. The matter goes back to 2010, when Rodney Koon was stopped for speeding. Koon identified himself as a medical marijuana patient and police tested him for THC in his bloodstream. The test was positive, and the result was used in prosecuting Koon under the Vehicle Code which uses a “zero tolerance” standard.

The court ruling reads, in part: ” While we need not set exact parameters of when a person is 'under the influence' we conclude that it contemplates something more than having any amount of marijuana in one's system and requires some effect on the person."

This doesn’t leave the police without recourse. If they can testify that impairment was evident – as when someone drifts outside the lines, or otherwise drives in a radical fashion – police can still charge a DUI, even without using a positive blood test as evidence. In Koon’s case, he was merely speeding, so that didn’t come up.


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