It is a fairly well known fact that it is against the law to consume alcohol to the point of being intoxicated or visibly impaired and then getting behind the wheel of an automobile and driving on a street or highway or other area open to the public.
It is also against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance or a combination of a controlled substance and alcohol.
But what of a situation where a driver has a medical marijuana registry card, smokes marijuana and then drives a motor vehicle without noticeable difficulty? Is this against the law in light of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), which allows using marijuana as a qualifying patient under certain circumstances?
Recently the Michigan Court of Appeals was faced with this question when a defendant who had a valid marijuana registry card, was caught speeding and admitted smoking marijuana five to six hours before being stopped.
The MMMA provides that a person cannot drive if under the influence of marijuana. However, another part of the drunk driving statute also provides that it is against the law to drive a motor vehicle with the presence of any amount of a Schedule 1 drug in your body. Bad driving need not be proved. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug.
After carefully analyzing the drunk driving statute and the relevant portions of the MMMA, the Court of Appeals ruled that the MMMA does not sanction driving with marijuana in one’s system and held that the defendant could properly be tried under the applicable section of the statute.
This is called a “per se” violation.
What this means is that having a medical marijuana card is not a defense in such a situation and there is a risk of being prosecuted under Michigan’s statute if a person drives and there is a detectable amount of marijuana in the person’s system.
The case is People v Koon.