According to the Michigan Supreme Court, medical marijuana patients who drive after using cannabis are not automatically breaking the law reversing a lower court decision that barred medical patients from driving with any amounts of THC in their system.
The unanimous ruling issued Tuesday, centers around Rodney Koon, who was pulled over for going nearly 30 mph over the limit back in 2010. Koon admitted to drinking a beer and taking his meds earlier in the day and a blood test for active THC proved he had about 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood, but he contends that wasn’t why he was speeding. After being shot down in lower courts, he appealed his way to the Supreme Court.
Michigan’s medical marijuana laws – passed in 2008 – maintain that driving under the influence of marijuana remains legal. But the Supreme Court now says that police have to prove that the driver was impaired in some other way than by using blood tests because there are no impaired limits set in Michigan law. Basically, the cops weren’t doing their job and couldn’t prove any other signs of impairment.
“The immunity from prosecution provided under the MMMA (medical marijuana law) to a registered patient who drives with indications of marijuana in his or her system but is not otherwise under the influence of marijuana inescapably conflicts with the Michigan Vehicle Code’s prohibition against a person driving with any amount of marijuana in his or her system,” the judges wrote in their decision.
(Read the entire opinion from the Michigan Supreme Court here)
The court did suggest that such limits be created in the future by the legislature, however.
Also according to the Supreme Court ruling, the marijuana law protects not only the physical possession of actual cannabis but it also protects you from possession of marijuana internally. As in, after you’ve ingested the herb.
“Therefore, the MMMA shields registered patients from prosecution for the internal possession of marijuana,” the ruling says. And then in a moment of unintended hilarity, they clarify how much you can internally possess: “…provided that the patient does not otherwise possess more than 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.”
While THC driving limits are likely in the future for Michigan lawmakers after this decision, for now state medical marijuana advocates seem pleased.
“I mean, these people got it right,” medical marijuana advocate Tim Beck told CBS Detroit. “I can say this is a court with integrity – these is very, very important. I mean, it’s huge, this is probably the most important decision that has come down in the State Supreme Court that they’ve ruled on it. … Just because some has THC in their system, which in theory, they may be high – they may not be high. But the standard is are they driving safely – period. And it’s now up to the police to prove they were not driving safely. But just because someone is speeding, you and I could be stone cold sober, not have any thing and still be speeding.”
While it’s a relief for medical marijuana patients (for now), it doesn’t seem like the courts are all that supportive of the medical cannabis laws. “It goes almost without saying that the (medical marijuana law) is an imperfect statute, the interpretation of which has repeatedly required this Court’s intervention.”