Lawmakers vote to study marijuana limit for drivers

Posted at 10:42 AM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 18:27:05-04

LANSING, Mich. (AP/WXMI) — A bill advancing in Michigan's Legislature may set the stage for setting a legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana.

The House voted 107-1 Tuesday to create a commission to research and recommend a threshold of THC bodily content that would constitute evidence of impaired driving. THC is the component of marijuana responsible for the drug's effects.

>> READ: Michigan HB 5024

Michigan's law legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes shields patients from prosecution for drugged driving as long as they aren't "under the influence" of marijuana.

In 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled medical marijuana patients were not automatically breaking the law if they were caught driving after using the drug, but did recommended  lawmakers work to set a legal limit similar to the blood alcohol content measurement.

Legislators hope to define a limit similarly to how there's a bodily alcohol content of 0.08.

“The same standard you have for alcohol, we have to form and make a standard for marijuana," said Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Macomb, who sponsored the bill. “We have to lend ourselves to credibility, honesty and decency to make a standard we all know is a good standard.”

Lucido said members on the commission will range from individuals in law enforcement to medical and science professionals, and will be appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Unlike other Schedule 1 drugs, THC can be detected in the body long after it no longer affects someone's driving ability.

Roger Maufort with MI NORML, which advocates reforms to marijuana laws, said the commission's approach is backwards and will do more to prosecute medical marijuana patients than protect them.

“A numerical limit is not going to work; it’s not fair to the patients," Maufort said. "The study they are looking into doing would never meet peer review, because they are trying to prove a conclusion prior to, rather than actually doing the study and coming up with a conclusion based on that study.”

Maufort said research on blood alcohol content is way ahead of where science is on THC and its effects on the human body.

“There’s no comparison at all," he said.

Drugged driving laws and limitsvary widely by state. Some are "zero-tolerance," while others have "per se" laws with limits that can result in a DUI if exceeded, regardless of the driver's behavioral impairment.

Most states have "effect-based" laws that require a person show evidence of impairment from marijuana use.

Lucido said he expects the commission to make policy recommendations within one year.

“I don’t want any citizens of this state, including my own family, at risk from anybody who is too high out on the road today," he said.