Does Michigan Medical Marijuana Law Conflict With Law Which Prohibits Driving With the Presence of Certain Drugs?

You can smoke marijuana now with a Michigan Medical Marijuana card. However, the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code prohibits operation of a vehicle with the presence of a marijuana or other schedule 1 substances.

This conflicting issue was recently reported in an article in The Oakland Press.
A recent article in the Oakland Press, Medical marijuana advocates: State has us in a ‘Catch 22’, pertains to a case out of Grand Traverse County where a medical marijuana cardholder was charged with Operating With the Presence of Drugs (OWPD). The Grand Traverse County Prosecutor has filed an appeal and the Michigan Attorney General, Bill Shuette, has filed a brief, both supporting the law which prohibits operation of a vehicle with the presence of marijuana. Medical marijuana advocates say that Michigan’s zero tolerance policy is a “Catch 22” because you are allowed to use marijuana as a medical marijuana patient but you are not allowed to drive.

Michigan’s existing law which makes it illegal to Operate a Vehicle with the Presence of Drugs (OWPD) only requires the prosecutor to show some presence of certain drugs (schedule 1) or marijuana in a person’s chemical test (usually a blood test) to obtain a conviction. The prosecutor is not required to prove that the driver was intoxicated or impaired, only that the person had the presence of drugs, or marijuana, in his system at the time of operating a vehicle. This has been labeled a “zero tolerance” law. Similarly in Michigan, the issue of intoxication is irrelevant if someone is found operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater (OWI).

The active ingredient of marijuana is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC or delta 9). The system metabolizes THC into numerous metabolites which are stored in human body fat. These metabolites show up in urine tests for several days, approximately 12-30, after the effects of marijuana have disappeared. Medical marijuana advocates and criminal defense lawyers argue that the mere presence of these metabolites does not equate to intoxication or impairment.

The Michigan Court of Appeals will need to consider whether intoxication or impairment will need to be proven in cases where someone has used medicinal marijuana or whether the existing law will be upheld as mentioned above.

Our law firm has a record of objecting to the zero tolerance laws which impose strict criminally responsible when no other proof is required to indicate illegal conduct such as operating a vehicle while impaired or intoxicated. It is our opinion that the current zero tolerance laws as applied to medical marijuana users (OWPD), as well as the current law for operating while intoxicated with a .08% or greater (OWI), punish otherwise legal conduct without regard to any fault or bad conduct.