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Court Of Appeals Hears Argument On Whether A Medical Marijuana User May Drive While Having Marijuana In Their System

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Ronald D. Richards Jr.
Foster Swift Municipal Law News
February 2012

Our April 2011 newsletter noted the Michigan Medical Marijuana case of People v Koon that involves the intersection of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and laws against driving with marijuana in one's system. That case is back in the news again, as the Michigan Court of Appeals set argument on the legal issues for February 8, 2012.

That case arose when Grand Traverse County prosecutor charged Mr. Koon, a medical marijuana user, with driving with the presence of drugs in his system. The prosecutor relied on the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code's rule that prohibits driving with any amount of a Schedule 1 substance –marijuana is still listed as a Schedule 1 substance – in the driver's system. The district court and trial court agreed with the driver that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (the Act) is an affirmative defense to the charges, despite the Motor Vehicle Code.

The prosecutor asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to step in. Michigan Attorney General Schuette filed a brief supporting the prosecutor's appeal. The Attorney General argues that the Act does not trump the zero-tolerance standard in the Motor Vehicle Code. The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan has also chimed in.

Koon is interesting for at least two reasons.

  1. It will be interesting to see what law the Court of Appeals thinks trumps the other – does the Medical Marijuana Act trump the Motor Vehicle Code so as to allow medical marijuana users to drive with marijuana in their system? Or does the Motor Vehicle Act trump the Medical Marijuana Act so as to bar those users from driving with marijuana in their system? Or will the Court decide the case another way?
  2. The Court granted a credentialed journalist's request to photograph, video-tape, and tape-record the oral argument. Our experience indicates that the Court of Appeals is getting more media requests all the time.

Have questions about Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act? Please contact Ron Richards or any member of Foster Swift's Municipal Team.