Friday, May 31, 2013
COMMON SENSE DECISION ALLOWS MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENTS TO DRIVE AGAIN
by Ted Heitor
Finally some good news came from the Michigan Supreme Court that allows medical marijuana patients to operate a motor vehicle with marijuana in their system. As we all know, marijuana can show up on a blood test thirty days or more after using it. Washington, Nevada, Ohio, and Colorado have set specific legal driving limits of a certain number of nanograms of THC in a driver's blood, and the court recommended that Michigan do the same before long. As for now, an officer will have to prove that you are impaired by administering roadside field sobriety tests before taking you in to get your blood drawn. Police will also have to show proof that the driver was “under the influence” of marijuana for charges to stick.
The test revealed the drug in his system and Rodney was charged with DUI. Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider based his case against Koon on a law that finds a person guilty if he tests positive for the smallest detectable amount of a controlled substance. But two area judges disagreed. They said the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act supersedes a state controlled substance law and ruled Schneider must show that the legal use of medical marijuana impaired Koon's ability to drive a car. "Evidence of impairment is a necessary requirement," wrote 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers.
"The (prosecutor) has not alleged ... the defendant's actions and mannerisms at that time indicated a visible or substantial impairment with regard to his driving," Rodgers wrote. He also noted the medical marijuana act states that certified users cannot be "subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner ... for the medical use of marijuana." Schneider disagreed with Rodgers' ruling and appealed it to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The appellate court said the state’s “zero tolerance” law, which prevents motorists from operating a vehicle with any amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance in their body, still applies for drivers who legally use medical marijuana. Thus, the Court of Appeals determined that the MMMA permitted defendant's prosecution under the zero-tolerance statute even though he possessed a valid medical marijuana registration card.
This time it was Rodney Koons’ chance to appeal. Without even having a formal hearing, court unanimously overturned the appeals court decision in the case of the Grand Traverse County man. While noting that the act prohibits driving while "under the influence," the state's highest court took issue with the appeals court's strict interpretation of the law. The state high court said medical marijuana users have some protection regarding their right to drive. The court concluded that “driving under the influence” contemplates something more than having any amount of marijuana in one's system and requires some effect on the person. The act's protections extend to a registered patient who internally possesses marijuana while operating a vehicle as long as they can pass a field sobriety test. Drive Safe!