There is a growing unrest in Michigan having to do with how the Medical Marijuana law is interacting with existing laws and criminal cases. There have been stories in the media about defendants placed on probation who are being denied the right to smoke marijuana for their ailments. There is also a debate about the ability to operate a motor vehicle after using medical marijuana. The issue is whether or not having marijuana in your system is enough to charge an individual with a crime versus having your ability to drive “impaired” by the use of marijuana. The Michigan Attorney General has weighed in on this debate and has issued a press release as follows:
Schuette Joins Grand Traverse Prosecutor in Marijuana Driving Case
AG Says Medical Marijuana Law Must Not be Used to Allow Driving with Marijuana Present in System
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced his office has filed an amicus brief in support of Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider’s appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals in People v. Koon, a case in which Schneider charged a medical marijuana user with driving with marijuana in his system.
Koon was charged on May 21, 2010 by the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s office for driving under the influence of a drug (OUID). Michigan’s motor vehicle code prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle with any amount of a Schedule 1 substance in the body. Koon, a medical marijuana user, had been stopped for speeding on February 3, 2010 and admitted to smoking marijuana that day. A blood test conducted afterward found evidence of active THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – in Koon’s system. Schneider filed the charge because the state motor vehicle code prohibits driving with any amount of marijuana in a driver’s body.
After the charge, the Grand Traverse County district and circuit courts erroneously concluded that language in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) superseded the motor vehicle code and required the prosecutor to demonstrate Koon was actually impaired by the marijuana in his system. The courts therefore did not allow Schneider to explain to a potential jury that the motor vehicle code prohibits any presence of drugs in a driver’s system. The trial has been postponed while Schneider pursues the appeal.
Schuette argues in his brief that while the MMMA provides limited protection to certain individuals who use marijuana in accordance with the act, it does not offer protection to those who then drive with marijuana in their system. Therefore, the zero-tolerance standard established by the Michigan motor vehicle code should followed to protect public safety.
Schuette noted that Michigan State Police statistics show just how dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is. In 2009, 52 people were killed and 282 injured in 916 car crashes in Michigan involving a driver who had used drugs.
“This law must not be interpreted in a way that puts the safety of people on the roads at risk,” said Schuette. “Michigan law makes clear that driving with drugs in your system is illegal. Allowing anyone to do so puts the lives of our families and friends unnecessarily in jeopardy.”