Michigan Supreme Court Upholds Medical Marijuana Act and Rejects \'Zero-Tolerance\' Provision of Michigan Vehicle Code
From Issue 771
By: Robert E Martin
13th June, 2013
The Michigan Supreme Court handed down a major victory in late May to supporters and patients of Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act in the case of Rodney Lee Koon, who was prosecuted for operating a vehicle while 'under the influence' of marijuana under the Michigan Vehicle Code, which prohibits a person from driving with any amount of a scheduled controlled substance - a list that includes marijuana - in his or her system.
The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) prohibits the prosecution of registered patients who internally possess marijuana, but the act does not prohibit registered patients who operate a vehicle while 'under the influence' of marijuana. The case required the Court to decide whether the MMMA's protection supersedes the Michigan Vehicle Code and allows a registered patient to drive when he or she had indications of marijuana in his or her system, but is not otherwise under the influence of marijuana.
The Supreme Court concluded that the MMMA does offer such protection and thus reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. The defendant in the case was stopped for speeding in Grand Traverse County and during the stop, voluntarily produced a marijuana pipe and informed the arresting officer that he was a registered patient under the MMMA and was permitted to possess marijuana. A blood test revealed he had a THC content of 10 nanograms per milliliter.
The Court ruled that the Michigan Vehicle Code's zero-tolerance provision was inconsistent with the MMMA and that defendant was protected from prosecution unless it could be proved his driving was impaired by the presence of marijuana in his body. The Court of Appeals determined that the zero-tolerance statute permitted Koon's prosecution even though he possessed a valid card, which the Supreme Court with this case has now reversed.
The Supreme Court wrote in their opinion: “The MMMA rather than legalizing marijuana functions by providing registered patients with immunity from prosecution for the use of medical marijuana and that the statutory definition of medical use includes 'internal possession'. Therefore, the MMMA shields registered patients from prosecution for internal possession, provided that the patient does not possess more than 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.
The Court also noted that “As the legislature contemplates amendments to the MMMA, and to the extent it wishes to clarify the specific circumstances under which a registered patient is per se 'under the influence' of marijuana, it might consider adopting a 'legal limit' like that applicable to alcohol, establishing when a registered patient is outside the MMMA's protection.”