Troy MI License Restoration Blog

Friday, January 9, 2015

Defense for Drivers Using Medical Marijuana

Is use of medical marijuana a defense to a Michigan Operating with the Presence of Drugs (OWPD) charge?


Driving while impaired by marijuana is illegal in Michigan, as it is in all states. But simply having the drug in your system cannot be used as a basis for an arrest for those who are registered users of medical marijuana

The state’s Supreme Court has ruled that smoking before driving is acceptable for state approved medical marijuana users in certain circumstances. The court ruled last year that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) superseded the zero-tolerance drug policy provision of the Michigan Vehicle Code, for OWPD where just having a schedule one drug (like marijuana) present in a blood test was enough for a criminal charge.

This decision overturned an appeals court ruling involving Rodney Koon, who was pulled over after driving almost 30 mph over the speed limit in Grand Traverse County in 2010.  He told police he had a state marijuana card and had smoked pot five to six hours before the incident. The existence of the drug in his bloodstream was confirmed with a blood test.

The Supreme Court sided with Koon in its ruling.  The decision states that "the MMMA shields registered patients from prosecution for the internal possession of marijuana." Though the act prohibits driving while "under the influence," the state court disagreed with the appeals court's strict interpretation of the law.  The court stated that "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".  Pointing out the MMMA's lack of specifics in determining whether someone was "under the influence" of pot, the court also suggested that legislators create a limit comparable to a blood alcohol level for drunk drivers.

The MMMA was approved by state voters in 2008. Those dealing with a condition on a list of designated ailments like cancer or Crohn's disease can use marijuana as medicine, if they have a certification from a doctor.

Whether or not you’re a medical marijuana user, if you have been arrested for a driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence or operating with the presence of drugs charge, there are any number of possible defenses that can be used to protect your freedom and your rights. If you are facing these charges, call Michigan criminal defense attorney Martin T. Lievois in Troy at 248-419-1566 or in Flint at 810-250-2550.

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