Michigan High Court Should Put Down the Bong

After reading the opinion handed down by the Michigan Supreme Court yesterday holding that people can be prosecuted for driving a vehicle with any amount of 11-carboxy-THC in their bloodstream, I think they’ve got to be high. On second thought, even potheads wouldn’t have written a judicial opinion this bad. With a tortured reading of dictionaries for definitions that agree with their conclusions and a blatant disregard for any sense of equity or justice, they’ve just made anyone who smoked marijuana weeks or months ago into a criminal just for driving a car.pot

Which argument do you find more convincing? Justice Corrigan writing for the four-judge majority?

First, the dissent claims that our interpretation of the statute does not provide an ordinary person with notice of prohibited conduct. To the contrary, the plain language of the statute is clear and unambiguous. MCL 257.625(8) prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle with any amount of a schedule 1 controlled substance in the body. In essence, the statute prohibits a person from driving after smoking marijuana. It is irrelevant that an “ordinary” marijuana smoker allegedly does not know that 11-carboxy-THC could last in his or her body for weeks. It is also irrelevant that a person might not be able to drive long after any possible impairment from ingesting marijuana has worn off. The use of marijuana is classified as a misdemeanor under current law, MCL 333.7404(1) and (2)(d). The Legislature’s prohibition of the operation of a motor vehicle with any amount of marijuana, which explicitly includes derivatives of marijuana, in the body provides more than adequate notice regarding the prohibited conduct. The corollary of this prohibition is that once the schedule 1 substance is no longer in the body, one can resume driving. It is irrelevant that the “ordinary person” cannot determine, without drug testing, when the schedule 1 substance is no longer detectible in the body.

or Justice Cavanagh writing for the dissent?

Plainly, there is no rational reason to charge a person who passively inhaled marijuana smoke at a rock concert a month ago and who now decides to drive to work. There is no rational reason to charge a person who inhaled marijuana two weeks ago and who now decides to drive to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. While I certainly agree with the Legislature’s position that a person should be punished for driving while under the influence of a controlled substance because of the potential for tragic outcomes, the majority’s interpretation of the statute is arbitrary and wholly unrelated in a rational way to the objective of the statute. To say that driving while a person’s system contains any amount of a substance that has no pharmacological effect is a crime””given that under the most conservative estimates offered by the prosecution, the current scientific testing can find evidence of the substance for at least four weeks””is not permissible under the Constitution.

Can you impeach judges in Michigan? At the least, I recommend that every citizen of Michigan call their legislators and get them to amend this statute to undo this mess that Justices Maura D. Corrigan, Clifford W. Taylor, Robert P. Young, Jr., and Stephen J. Markmanthe have created. Is Michigan trying to catch up with Georgia in making stupid laws?

Hat tip: Jacob Sullum at Hit & Run.

  1. This is afterall the same Michigan Supreme Court, though probably not the same judges, that gave life in prison to a guy for having 650 grams of cocaine in his trunk. Sounds like an inducement to do _anything_ not to get caught. I wouldn’t want to be the cop chasing such a person.

  2. Pete has a very good point on this one.

    Now, there’s another perspective on this; what about people who, for example, are taking a legal, prescribeable material that is NOT a schedule I drug but results in the presence of THC in their system?

    Are they, too, to be so penalized? (That would be Marinol, folks.)

    Further — what if someone was “slipped a micky” and had no clue they had even INGESTED marijuana?

    That sounds *ENTIRELY* like a prescription for blackmail or induced arrest — we have now reached the point where one can be forced into committing a crime without even being aware of it, that is of felony level.

  3. Corrollary — (I AM NOT ADVOCATING THIS!!!)

    It would be amusing to see what would happen if these justices got themselves tipped off for having THC in their system by the same person who put a few chopped-up leaves in their spagghetti sauce a week earlier, whilst they were on their way to the grocery store.

  4. I’m on a prescribed pain medication that is a THC derivative ..there is none of the psychedelic effects or anything like that…so i’m not allowed to drive in Michigan for a month after i take a pill? hmmmmm glad i dont live there lol never be allowed to drive hahaha zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  5. Let’s argue about the fucking pledge and the zero force principle some more. That will get our liberty back.

    It’s obvious to the most casual observer that it’s done well for us so far.

  6. It all depends on what you consider their job to be. It sounds to me like they interpreted the law correctly. This should result in the law being changed due to its, now obvious, flaws.

    It’s a much better result (though not for the individual involved) than allowing the police and prosecutors to keep using it selectively in a divide and conquer way that never reaches political mass. Maybe they’ll take the opportunity to change it altogether.

    I’ve never smoked pot (except second hand), but I take hempseed oil for my health on doctor’s advice. Since I’m white and an inconspicuous driver (except for the libertarian bumper-stickers), it’s unlikely to be an issue for me.

    Speaking of doing something, when these stories happen locally, contact the victim and invite them to join the LP. We need motivated people and to stick together.

  7. There are alternative forms of testing available such as a cheek swab which only shows for the past 8 hours why wasn’t that brought up as an option. It wouldn’t be a complete check of true sobriety. but it would at least be better option than this especially with more and more states adding duid laws.
    And timothy there is a petition right now to legalize it. it is at least a start to ending this bullshit drug war.
    here is the petition

  8. Schedule One you say. That would be heroin if I recall correctly. Let’s serve the judges a poppy seed bagel or two, or remind the boneheads in a LTE.

  9. You potheads really crack me up.
    This is the best ruling to come along in years.
    Now we can catch those dastardly bong-tokers
    and ARREST and IMPRISON them.
    It’s yet another nail in the coffin of
    the pot smoking freaks who toke out
    then drive.
    You guys probably don’t even understand the
    genius of the Iraq invasion, do you?

  10. jarell dont even take nigel seriously. Ive
    ascertained his IP address and hell soon
    be getting a knock on his door from
    some officers for toke-ganja-sympathizing/
    15-20 in the state pen ought to open his eyes.

  11. I take Nigel seriously. He’s a well spoken and intelligent young man who is pro-Liberty. Which is more than may be said for you, where your earlier comments are concerned. The courts ruling in this case is indicative of a severe lack of knowledge and will likely be overturned by a higher court.

  12. Even the USDOT in pre-employ/random drug tests have cut-off levels. michigan says “any” metabolite. Modern science has the ability to register one-part-per-billion marijuana metabolite. Pretty amazing cuz out here in Calif I have a medical Recommendation to smoke weed. As long as I dont smoke in a moving vehicle it doesnt matter what my metabolite reading is cuz its always high. Gov Arnold Swarznagger directed the CA Hwy Patrol not to confiscate any stash less than 8 OZs per driver or passenger that has a Calif Recommendation. I pass right through the truck scales in my Peterbilt with bags of weed visable…the scales are State run and i have a Recommendation. Its no thing.
    Michigan, get a clue.

  13. This is basically mandating random drug testing for Driving in Michigan. Under such a broad description of impairment almost any driver who may be profiled as a “stoner”, Can be tested if the cop suspects the driver of DUI we already know that they profile for drug trafficking they will just allow themselves to do the same thing here. They stil think they can win the war on drugs.

  14. So, does anyone have a good excuse for why THC-COOH is on the Schedule I list? It’s not a precursor to anything nor is it psychoactive. Could it theoretically be recovered and reduced to THC in a cost effective manner?

  15. Tracing the link back to the orriginal story, I’m not sure that the opinion above is all that important. One case involved someone who admitted smoking marijuana within an hour and a half and the other involved someone who smoked marijuana within four hours. This is quite different from the above attenuated cases of someone who passively inhaled several days or even weeks prior.

    That is to say that the quoted passages are “dicta” or the excess verbiage of the judges having little to do with the case at hand.