Drug Policy

Michigan Court Says Drugged Driving Requires Drugs


In 2006 the Michigan Supreme Court interpreted the state's drugged driving law as prohibiting people with any trace of marijuana metabolites in their bodies from operating a motor vehicle. Since metabolites can be detected in a person's urine weeks after he smokes pot, the decision (PDF) essentially made it illegal for marijuana users to drive, regardless of whether they are under the drug's influence. This week the Court, which shifted to the left after Chief Justice Clifford Taylor was defeated by Diane Marie Hathaway in the 2008 elections, reversed that ruling. The relevant statute says a person may not drive "if the person has in his or her body any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule 1," which includes marijuana, THC (marijuana's main active ingredient), and their "derivatives." While the 2006 ruling deemed the marijuana metabolite 11-carboxy-THC to be a "derivative," this week's decision (PDF) rejected that reading of the law. "We hold that 11-carboxy-THC is not a schedule 1 controlled substance," the court said, "and, therefore, a person cannot be prosecuted…for operating a motor vehicle with any amount of 11-carboxy-THC in his or her system."

In addition to providing a crucial fourth vote for this position on the seven-member court, the 2008 elections gave Michigan a medical marijuana law. Although that law was intended to protect patients who use marijuana for symptom relief from arrest, the court noted, treating marijuana metabolites as a controlled substance would make them vulnerable to arrest whenever they drive. More generally, it said, a policy of zero tolerance for metabolites has "tremendous potential for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement," criminalizing behavior based on variable laboratory standards for reporting a positive result and "the whim of police and prosecutors." Given this reality, the court said, "Michigan citizens cannot be sure of what conduct will be deemed criminal."

More on marijuana and driving here and here.

[via the Drug War Chronicle]

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  1. Since metabolites can be detected in a person’s urine weeks after he smokes pot


    1. so sexist, i think i need an environmentally conscious tissue to cry into

  2. So in other words it is now legal to drive stoned in Michigan. This will endanger everyone who drives in Michigan.

    1. OMG, those killa Michigan drivers! Joe, you must be terrified.

    2. Yes, with so many accidents caused by marijuana prior to this ruling, I imagine one would need an armored transport to get around town now that everyone will be dangerously high and flouting the law.

      Or nothing will be different at all, and you won’t be at risk for a DWAI arrest for a bowl you smoked 2 weeks ago.

    3. So in other words, you can’t read.

    4. You needed a tank to drive in MI anyway. Have you experienced driving in MI??

      The pot might slow some people down, get them to mellow out….relax….chill….it’s cool

    5. thats false
      it IS illegal to drive stoned, the only thing they’re testing for now is thc,
      instead of the metabolites of thc which have virtually no effect on a persons state of mind

  3. Hey, a positive story! Now we can anticipate a shot in the nuts from Radley sometime today in response.

    1. I’ve been working out, so it’ll be an extra good kick to the nuts.

      1. He also bought that giant boot from the Simpsons Go To Australia.

  4. I remember reading many many years ago of a device which worked like a breathalizer for pot. I wonder what happened to that – did the drug testing companies buy the patent and mothball the device? Was the reliability in question (like that stops cops from using the alcohol version)?

  5. Well at least one good thing came out of the 2008 election. Shame on the fuckers who made the 2006 ruling. That is just so stupid as to be beneath comment.

  6. This will endanger everyone who drives in Michigan.

    *places order for ten thousand shares of Batesville Casket*

  7. The problem with the past interpretation of the law is that virtually every drug, both prescriptiona and over the counter, would in fact make one a violator of the law. How many judges have driven after taking an anti-histamine?

    Also, taken to its logical conclusion, sugar (aka carbs) can affect any insulin impaired individual, as well as the increased amounts of serotonin after large meals – shouldn’t we for safety’s sake be hauling in all those drowsy Thankgiving revelers???
    Trooper: “Sir, have you had any pumpkin pie?”
    Typical fat American: “Why yes officer, I had two big pieces with real whipped creme!”
    Trooper: “Tase him and cuff ’em!”

    1. Trooper: “Tase him and cuff ’em!”

      I think you got the order reversed there.

      1. Could be both before and after?

    2. Sugar can affect any individual, especially those of us who never use it. Sugar is a mind-altering drug like any other.

      1. You know how i know you’re not a doctor? (Or even someone who paid any attention in high school biology.)

  8. Man, I can’t wait for my coca tea.

  9. Now if only the rest of the states with drugged driving laws would reach the same conclusion.

    If Michigan doesn’t consider the THC metabolites a schedule I drug, then it could be argued that active THC metabolites, like 11-Hydroxy-THC, could be possessed and sold in Michigan legally. Interesting…

    1. Except, and I’m no scientist so maybe Groovus can clarify, but pretty sure the metabolites are already “used up” and don’t cause the psychotropic effects of the original substance.

      So unless your goal is to fail a drug test without getting high….

  10. Awesome ruling!

  11. “This week the Court, which shifted to the left after Chief Justice Clifford Taylor was defeated by Diane Marie Hathaway in the 2008 elections, reversed that ruling. ”

    Look, douchebag, this is a libertarian victory, so obviously the fucking court swung right, you stupid fucking idiot!

    1. Saying something has been liberalized, or shifted to the left, is typically meant in the classical sense, such as is the context here.

      1. I’m sorry, but I live in America, where ‘Liberal’ is an insult. Don’t be so fucking stupid with your bullshit definitions. Everyone knows ‘liberal’ and ‘leftwing’ refer to people who I don’t like!

  12. I drive in Detroit every day. This is a city where they had to post road signs that said “The light is red for a reason, so stop!”, so stoners are the least of our worries.

    That being said, good decision by the MI Court. Once heard one of its conservative justices say something to the effect of “We’ve been called a totally predictable court, since when is that a bad thing in a justice system?”

    1. When you’re predictably wrong, that’s when.

    2. Ditto both Moz and RC Dean

  13. solid jurisprudence . . . finally!

  14. solid jurisprudence . . . finally!

  15. It’s the right decision. Nevermind just trace metabolites, a study by Hartford Hospital and the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine found that “Marijuana use had little effect on simulated driving skills.”


  16. JOE: you need to have someone sit down with you and explain this article in its most basic terms

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  18. I cant believe something like this exists coach outlet online on the internet! Its so true, so honest, and more than that you dont sound like an idiot! Finally

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