St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Medical Marijuana Patients Get the Keys to the Car

Medical Marijuana Cases

The Michigan Supreme Court recently took another look at the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, (MMMA) MCL 333.26421 et seq., this time considering how the act applies to qualified patients behind the wheel. Without even hearing oral arguments, the Court decided in favor of the qualified patient.

When the Defendant was stopped for speeding, he volunteered a marijuana pipe and his MMMA card, listing him as a qualified patient. He said he had last used marijuana five to six hours before the stop. A drug test confirmed active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component of marijuana, in the Defendant’s system.

The Court was asked to decide whether the MMMA protected qualified patients against prosecution under MCL 257.625(8), which prohibits any person from operating a motor vehicle with any amount of a schedule 1 drug (including marijuana) in his or her system.

The MMMA (which is explained more fully here) protects qualified patients from prosecution for the medical use of marijuana. Medical use includes what the statute calls internal possession, which the Court inferred to mean the presence of THC in the qualified patient’s blood.

But the MMMA is not a blanket protection. Qualified patients must possess less than 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and must be acting within the limits of the statute. They cannot operate motor vehicles while under the influence of marijuana.

The Court said that under the influence must mean something more than any amount of marijuana in a patient’s system. Basing its decision on similar language in previous alcohol-based statutes, it imposed the requirement that the substance have some effect on the person. Because the MMMA protects against prosecution as long as a qualified patient acts within the limits of the statute, it superseded the Michigan Vehicle Code and prohibited the charges against the defendant.

Many judges have cautioned medical marijuana patients against driving, believing that any THC in the patients’ system could exclude them from the protections of the act. With this opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court has negated that reading and has put the keys back in the hands of the qualified patients.

*Please note: Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular cas which may result in an outsome other than is descriged above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.

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