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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Driving and THC

Ruling will hopefully lead to change in law, attorney says

by Sam Inglot

Friday, Dec. 21 — A ruling by 55th District Judge Thomas Boyd may signal a win for medical marijuana patients down the road who want to continue to drive while safely using their medication, says an attorney involved with the case. 


A Court of Appeals ruling earlier this year upheld that it is illegal for anyone, including medical marijuana patients, to drive with any amount of a Schedule I drug in their system, which includes marijuana. That includes trace amounts that could still be detected several hours or even days after the drug is used.


But Boyd’s ruling may change that to a case-by-case basis and will hopefully lead to a change in the laws, said Mike Nichols, an East Lansing attorney.


Nichols represented an Ohio man in the case before Boyd. The man was involved in a car accident and after drawing his blood, a Michigan State Police testing lab found small amounts of THC in his system. Boyd ruled that the test for the presence of small amounts of THC in the blood was not reliable enough to be admitted in court.


“The whole idea is that this is the first judge to find that lab is not perfect when it comes to its measurements,” Nichols said. “So, hopefully, on a case-by-case basis it will pave the way to get a fair shot.”


Nichols said when testing for small amounts of THC, or any other drug whether it’s cannabis or Vicodin, there can be human- and equipment-induced “noise” or imperfections in the testing procedure that can throw off the test results, especially when looking for small amounts.


“I hope everybody takes a look at this opinion and the Legislature will say, ‘We’ve got to come up with a law that is fair,’ Nichols said. “The law, in my opinion, respectfully, is not fair.”


Nichols said the law is unfair because if a medical marijuana patient uses medication a day before driving and is no longer under the influence of the drug, they could still be breaking the law because trace amounts of THC could be found in their system. So, for a patient to not break the law, there would have to be no THC in their system.


“How would they know if they have any amount in their blood?” Nichols asked. “You can’t go to the drugstore and get a (testing kit) and say, ‘Whoops, I’ve got THC in my blood, I better take a cab home from the Rite Aid.”


Nichols hopes judges, lawyers and lawmakers will look at the case and get the ball rolling on some reforms.


“I hope this is the first domino and the last domino is at the state Capitol Building,” he said.

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