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With the passage of Proposal 1 (the Marijuana Legalization Initiative) in 2018, marijuana was approved for recreational use in Michigan—for adults aged 21 years or older. The measure also enacted a tax on marijuana sales. Though marijuana was legalized in Michigan, the state does not allow driving while using marijuana. Passengers may also not use marijuana while on a public road.

There is a zero-tolerance policy in Michigan when it comes to driving while high. A driver may face OWI (operating while intoxicated) charges for driving with any detectable amount of THC (tetrahydrochloride) in their system. THC is the main compound in cannabis that produces the sensation of being “high.” However, some prosecutors do not enforce this zero-tolerance stance and instead rely on evidence that a driver’s abilities were impaired by marijuana.

To establish intoxication by marijuana, a prosecutor may use an officer’s testimony regarding the traffic stop, observations while speaking with the driver, and the results of field sobriety testing. Physical evidence like footage from a body or vehicle camera and blood test results may be used to support the arresting officer’s testimony.

THC & Intoxication

For DUI charges involving alcohol, there is a clear .08% limit applied to drivers. A driver with a blood-alcohol level of .08% or greater may face OWI charges regardless of whether their abilities are impaired. A similar principle applies to marijuana DUI charges, but this is not backed by the same research that supports the .08% blood alcohol limit enforced in nearly every state. THC affects people in different ways, and it stays in the system long after the “high” has run its course. A person with elevated levels of THC in their system may have no “high” sensation at all. This makes Michigan’s zero-tolerance policy questionable at best.

In cases where a prosecutor tries to prove that a driver’s abilities were impaired by marijuana, there are other issues to address. Field sobriety tests were created to gauge impairment caused by alcohol, not drugs. They are not necessarily a reliable method of determining whether a driver is high. You can read more in this April 5, 2021 article by the National Institute of Justice: Field Sobriety Tests and THC Levels Unreliable Indicators of Marijuana Intoxication.

Medical Marijuana & DUI

What about medical marijuana cardholders? According to a 2013 decision by the Michigan Supreme Court, medical marijuana patients are exempt from the zero-tolerance policy that applies to THC. The decision came after a case involving a driver who was pulled over for speeding. After he was stopped, the driver informed the officer that he was a medical marijuana patient and had smoked about five to six hours prior to being pulled over. The driver submitted to a blood test, which showed THC in his system. He was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.

The case went all the way to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which concluded that the zero-tolerance provision applied to the driver even though he was a medical marijuana cardholder. The Supreme Court then overturned the decision, concluding that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) provides immunity for medical marijuana patients. However, it still concluded that cardholders were prohibited from driving “under the influence” of marijuana.

That, however, brings about the same issue of proving that a driver’s abilities are impaired by marijuana.

Challenging a Marijuana DUI Charge

Even “failed” field sobriety testing or a drug test that reveals THC does not have to end in an OWI conviction. As a Farmington Hills DUI attorney who has been fighting for drivers’ rights for nearly two decades, I know how to challenge physical evidence and the testimony of the most composed and experienced law enforcement officers. I have dealt with a complete range of drug and DUI charges for clients from all walks of life. I utilize investigators and expert witnesses of my own to build solid cases against my clients’ charges, even when the odds seem stacked against them.

Field sobriety tests are not always reliable. Drug tests may give false readings. Officers sometimes violate a driver’s constitutional rights. Using tried and tested defense strategies based on years of experience, I am prepared to help my clients fight their marijuana DUI charges and the serious penalties these can bring.

Find out more about my firm and how I can help by calling (248) 599-0054.