Aug 12, 2011
Have you ever noticed how prohibitionists in power keep fighting medical marijuana by saying that it is out of control, and somehow causing a breakdown in society, endangering the public, sending the wrong message to kids, etc.? Have you also noticed that they will freely spend time and taxpayer money trying to undermine medical marijuana programs and restrict the rights of patients?
We're seeing it in Arizona with Gov. Jan Brewer's egregious lawsuit to interfere with her state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, which even the federal government thinks is a waste of time. We're seeing it in Oregon, where a local sheriff is so hellbent on denying the 2nd Amendment rights of medical marijuana patients that he is willing to use state funds to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Now, long-time medical marijuana foe Bill Schuette, attorney general of Michigan, has announced his plans to introduce legislation this fall that would supposedly stop the abuse of the medical marijuana system there.
Hold on a minute. Aren't law enforcement supposed to enforce the laws, not make them? That's a topic for another time.
The main focus of the as-yet-unfinished bill will be curbing the amount of "drugged-driving" accidents by severely limiting the ability of medical marijuana patients to ever drive a car.
"Schuette noted confusing inconsistencies between the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code and the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act must be eliminated to preserve safety on Michigan roadways. A longstanding safety provision in the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code prohibits driving with any amount of marijuana in your system. In contrast, the MMMA references driving "under the influence of marijuana," a term which is not defined in state law or by uniform scientific standards, and creates a different standard for medical marijuana users. …
Schuette cited statistics recently released by the Michigan State Police which indicate that marijuana-related fatalities remain the most common drug-related automobile fatality, and that such fatalities are on the rise in Michigan.
"Driving with marijuana in your system is unsafe and jeopardizes the safety of our roadways," said Schuette. "If you take drugs, don't take the wheel."
It is never a good idea to get behind the wheel while impaired by any substance. That being said, the statements of the attorney general can best be described as baseless fear-mongering.
First of all, multiple studies and mountains of anecdotal evidence have proven that merely having marijuana in one's system is not an indicator of impairment, or even intoxication. Marijuana metabolites can stay in one's system for up to a month after using it, and THC can stay in one’s system for a week. Yet the effects wear off within a few hours. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act recognizes this by changing the wording of driving restrictions for medical marijuana patients to driving "under the influence,", meaning that the patient has medicated recently and is still experiencing some intoxicating effects. Despite Schuette’s claim, “under the influence” is used in the provision of Michigan's DUI laws that apply to all other prescription medications — MCL 257.625 (1)(a).
Under the changes proposed by Schuette, this difference would be removed, making it illegal for patients to operate a car with any marijuana in their system whatsoever. Most medical marijuana patients always have marijuana in their system. Even those who only use occasionally may have to use large amounts that can leave traces in the body for some time.
Basically, this amounts to saying that if a person finds that marijuana is the best medicine to treat their condition, he or she must forfeit their driving privileges or wait weeks after medicating to drive. This restriction is not applied to any other medicine in Michigan. This is medical bigotry, plain and simple. Patients are already dealing with trying to live normal lives and treat their conditions. They have it hard enough as it is. And Bill Schuette wants to make their lives even harder.
Secondly, the assertion that marijuana is involved in more automobile related fatalities than any other drug is completely false, unless one uses the definition that the Attorney General would like to apply to medical marijuana patients. The study cited in the press release used just that definition, however, and counted every fatal accident in which the driver had any marijuana in his or her system! This means that if someone smokes a joint, and three weeks later gets in a car (maybe after a few cocktails) and kills someone, it is a marijuana-related auto fatality.
It sure is easy to scare people when you don't care about science.
This is illustrative of the need to get away from chemical intoxication testing and go back to physical impairment tests in driving situations. It should not matter what is in someone's bloodstream, particularly for medical marijuana patients. Whether or not they are impaired should be the primary concern for law enforcement, and they don't need fancy blood tests or saliva swabs to determine that. They've been doing just fine since the invention of the automobile.