|Michigan Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette: “The zero tolerance standard should be followed”
If you’re a Michigan medical marijuana patient, you don’t get to drive, according to your Attorney General.
Medical marijuana advocates are unhappy about Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s reaction to a case concerning a medical marijuana cardholder who was arrested for “driving under the influence of drugs,” reports Carol Hopkins at the Oakland County Daily Tribune.
Atty. Gen. Schuette filed a brief in support of the Grand Traverse County prosecutor’s appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals in People v. Koon, a case in which Koon, a medical marijuana patient, was charged with driving with cannabis in his system.
Michigan’s motor vehicle code prohibits drivers from operating motor vehicles with “any amount” of a Schedule I substance in the body.
Schuette argued that while the Medical Marihuana Act “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 be followed to protect public safety.”
Problem is, marijuana metabolites stay in the body for at least 30 days after ingestion — thus “zero tolerance” effectively bans practically all medical cannabis patients from legally driving.
|Photo: The Macomb Daily
|Rick Thompson, Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine: “It’s obvious the Attorney General isn’t using common sense”
Thompson called trying to balance zero tolerance with the Medical Marihuana Act a “Catch 22.”
“You’re allowed to be a (medical marijuana) patient but you are not allowed to drive,” he said. “Zero tolerance is a bad policy. It’s going to cost honest patients their liberty.”
Jeffrey Perlman, a Southfield-based attorney who has represented medical marijuana patients and caregivers in recent cases, also disagreed with the Attorney General’s stance.
“Medical marijuana stays in a person’s system for up to 30 days, but it doesn’t mean you are impaired,” he said. “To take a person’s driving privileges away because they are on a medicine you don’t approve of — but a doctor does — is unacceptable.”
Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said that “driving under the influence is not even allowed under the state medical marijuana act. It’s not a defense.”
But Prosecutor Cooper is completely missing the point. As pointed out over and over, a zero tolerance policy doesn’t measure impairment — it measures whether you’ve used cannabis in the past month, so the last time you were under the influence could have been weeks ago, even if you test positive.
Rodney Koon was charged on May 21, 2010 by the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s Office for driving under the influence of a drug.
Koon, a legal medical marijuana patient, had been stopped for speeding on February 3, 2010, and admitted to smoking marijuana that day, six hours earlier. A blood test showed evidence of THC, a main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, in his system.
Grand Traverse County district and circuit courts ruled that language in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act superseded the motor vehicle code and required the prosecutor to demonstrate Koon was actually impaired by the marijuana in his system.
“This law must not be interpreted in a way that puts the safety of the people on the roads at risk,” Attorney General Schuette responded. “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.”