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No marijuana limit: What could it mean for OWIs?

Recreational marijuana has only been legal in Michigan since December 2018. With only a few months of this new law in effect, lawmakers and law enforcement are still ironing out the details. 

One of those details is how to regulate drugged driving. Many officials hope to define a legal limit for marijuana, just like blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels limit drunk driving. 

The Impaired Driving Safety Commission does not agree.

The commission was established to determine how tetrahydrocannabinol—better known as THC, the substance in marijuana that impairs the mind—impacts an individual's ability to drive. And they found that the level of THC in the blood may not prove someone is impaired, like BAC does.

According to their report, Michigan should not have a limit because marijuana affects all individuals differently, and THC levels in the blood change too quickly to measure impairment accurately.

No limit does not equal legal

So, what could drivers expect if the commission's suggestion becomes law?

First of all, the commission's recommendation does not mean there will be no regulation. Driving while impaired by marijuana would still be illegal, even if lawmakers agree with the commission and do not set a per se limit. However, police would still be permitted to rely on sobriety tests to prove the elements required for driving under the influence. 

The commission’s recommendation could serve to remove the lone objective measurement of intoxication currently associated with driving under the influence of Marijuana. Without a set limit of THC levels, Michigan police would not have any specific tool that could objectively measure a person’s level of intoxication as it relates to Marijuana. Meaning, a determination of driving under the influence could depend on the officer’s personal training and experience rather than an objective chemical analysis.

Right now, Michigan law prohibits any amount of THC in the blood when drivers are behind the wheel. At the very least, this suggestion would increase the current limit from zero, even if there is no number in mind yet. Further, the removal of an objective standard will require police to make a “judgment call” based on subjective information and their own training. This will certainly create an uncertain “grey area” that may subject motorists to improper arrest. As with any criminal charge, anyone who may be facing charges related to driving under the influence of Marijuana should consult experienced counsel prior to appearing in court as. Especially where there is now sufficient doubt that the level of THC is a dispositive measurement of intoxication.

 

Source: Lansing State Journal, "Michigan shouldn't set a driving limit for marijuana, commission says," Kara Berg, Mar. 28, 2019.

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