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Michigan Marijuana Driving Ruling By State Supreme Court Offers Limited DUI Protection

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MICHIGAN MARIJUANA DRIVING
File photo. In this Tuesday Jan. 26, 2010 file photo, a pedestrian walks past neon sign advertising a medical marijuana provider along a street in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File) | AP/Richard Vogel

Michigan's Supreme Court has ruled that taking a toke before driving is OK for state-approved marijuana patients in certain circumstances. In a unanimous ruling Tuesday, the high court decided that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) supersedes a zero-tolerance drug policy provision of the Michigan Vehicle Code.

Approved by state voters in 2008, The MMMA allows patients suffering from a list of designated ailments like cancer or Crohn's disease to take marijuana as medicine, provided they have legitimate certification from a doctor.

The Supreme Court judgement overturned an appeals court decision involving Rodney Koon, a man stopped for driving almost 30 mph over the speed limit in Grand Traverse County in 2010, the Lansing State Journal reports.

At the time, he let police know he had a state marijuana card and had smoked pot five to six hours before the driving incident. A blood test later confirmed the substance was in his bloodstream.

The Supreme Court sided with Koon in its ruling, deciding Tuesday that "the MMMA shields registered patients from prosecution for the internal possession of marijuana." While noting that the act prohibits driving while "under the influence," the state's highest court took issue with the appeals court's strict interpretation of the law.

"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," the court stated in a document cited by MLive.

Pointing out the MMMA's lack of specifics in determining whether someone was "under the influence" of pot, the court also suggested that legislators institute a state marijuana limit comparable to a blood alcohol level for drunk drivers.

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