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Michigan Supreme Court rules blood test showing
 marijuana smoked weeks ago can be used in court.


     Michigan Drivers Take Big Hit 
  Over Past Pot Smoking & Driving
      DUID Charges?  DUI Charges?


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Things The Cops Look For During Traffic Duty’s & Road Side Stops,  

                Friday, June 23, 2006

   Michigan Supreme Court rules blood test
  showing marijuana smoked weeks ago can
  be used in court.

         John Wisely / The Detroit News

Motorists can be prosecuted for driving under the influence of drugs if they test
 positive for any trace of marijuana, even weeks after they smoked it, the Michigan
 Supreme Court has ruled. Do you agree with the ruling?

Taylor See full image

Motorists can be prosecuted for driving under the influence of drugs if they test positive for any trace of marijuana, even weeks after they smoked it, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled. Do you agree with the ruling?

Pot smokers beware! That joint you smoked four weeks ago could come back to haunt you under a ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court.

In a 4-3 vote, the court ruled that motorists can be prosecuted for driving under the influence of drugs if they test positive for any trace of marijuana, including a metabolized remnant that experts say can stay in a person’s system for weeks after the smoke.

"They are automatically guilty even though they are no longer impaired by it," said Tim Beck, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which wants the drug legalized, taxed and regulated for adult use as alcohol is. "It’s not based on common sense or justice."

Officers still need probable cause to believe a crime was being committed before they can request a blood test, but motorists who refuse could be found guilty of a civil infraction and lose their license. Officers can compel a blood sample if a judge approves a search warrant for it.

The ruling stemmed from two cases. In the first case, a woman admitting smoking marijuana four hours before she crossed into oncoming traffic on a snowy road, striking another vehicle. That car’s front-seat passenger was killed and three children were injured. In the second case, a man stopped for erratic driving admitted smoking marijuana 30 minutes before.

In both cases, blood tests found 11 carboxy-THC, a byproduct created when the human body metabolizes marijuana. The ruling turned on the court’s interpretation of the law that prohibits driving under the influence of drugs.

The four justices in the majority — Maura Corrigan, Stephen Markman, Clifford Taylor and Robert Young — concluded that 11 carboxy-THC is a drug under the law even though experts testified that it has "no pharmacological effect on the body and its level in the blood correlates poorly, if at all, to an individual’s level of THC-related impairment."

The experts also testified that the chemical can only come from ingesting THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The majority based its conclusion on the Legislature’s definition of marijuana, which includes cannabis and "derivatives" of it.

Justice Michael Cavanagh called the ruling unconstitutionally vague. He cited expert testimony that noted the substance can be detected in a person’s system for up to four weeks after being ingested — long after its effects have worn off.

"Plainly, there is no rational reason to charge a person who passively inhaled marijuana smoke at a rock concert a month ago," Cavanagh wrote in a dissent joined by Justices Elizabeth Weaver and Marilyn Kelly. "Now, if a person has ever actively or passively ingested marijuana and drives, he drives not knowing if he is breaking the law, because if any amount of 11 carboxy-THC can be detected — no matter when it was previously ingested — he is committing a crime.

State drug prevention experts said the ruling could cause people to think more seriously about the effects of drug use.

"I think the ruling could be one more arrow in our quiver in the message we send to young people," said Donald Allen, director of the state’s office of drug control policy. "Most kids don’t think about how long this is in their system."