Lawmakers vote to study marijuana limit for drivers

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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 limits vary 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.

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12 comments

  • Nick

    Testosterone is also a controlled substance, and is responsible for more aggressive driving incidents than any other substance known. Will they be doing research to limit the acceptable level of testosterone as well?

    From another perspective, will they be researching what the minimum acceptable level for driving is, as one of THC’s medical benefits is that of stress reduction and increased focal attention. Seems to me those are two good qualities for a driver to have.

    And who is going to fund this study? The government? What controls will be in place to insure impartiality in the study then? Simple trust? Good luck with that.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a good idea. But you can not claim legitmate science if you start off with assumptions which have yet to even be proven. There have been no scientifically valid studies showing that THC negatively affects driving ability, let alone that THC “impairs” it. You will have to have those studies first, or any law you set up limiting its use will be stricken down in court as baseless.

  • Andrew

    With no way to determine the point when THC stops affecting a person (it remains in your system and you test positive for it long after the effects wear off), such restrictions are nothing but capricious and unconstitutional overreaching. Since no such test exists, this effort is nothing but a waste of money designed to continue the government’s efforts in thwarting the legitimately established will of the people.

  • just another loser

    More responsive . No side effects, dont cause cancer. Cures cancer. These are all things potheads say to try to make good reasons to legalize pot. There are some giid reasons for medical use. Such as someone on chemo. Alot of times you are so sick you cant keep pills or food down and it help with this. But before we fool ourselfs let not make excuses to legalize it just to run around smoking as recreational activity without guidelines. Let be honest there are side effects and if boundaries are not made people are going to be hurt or killed. Many who use it become laid back slow and have long responce times and do not beong behind the wheel of a car. Smoke enough and you become what is called stoned. You can become so stoned your unable to move. So lets quit lying to ourselfs accept the facts and accept the boundaries that must be set. I work aroud heavy equipment and ill be damned if i want someone high working with me. I have smoked and been around pot my whole life. I know what effects it has on someone. Side note. It is addictive.

    • James

      So close….I was with you all the way, until you blew it with the very last thing you said. Yes, it is addictive, but not even close to being as addictive as caffeine or nicotine (both of which also affect driving ability, yet are not so regulated) nor is it even as addictive as chocolate is. So the addictive property is NOT a valid criterion for regulation.

      Still, I do agree with you that regulation is needed when it comes to operating vehicles, and it appears that the others posting here agree with that as well. But let’s not base that regulation on arbitrary feelings or on political motivations. Let’s base it on scientific fact, and scientific fact only. I agree with Nick that it does not sound like this study is geared toward discovering facts, it sounds like it is geared toward gathering only data which shows a specific desired result. That is NOT science! That is preparing to take advantage of public ignorance and apathy to use pseudo-science for political purposes. ANY politician who supports this should be noted by name and run out of office for violating the public trust.

      • just another loser

        No i agree its not as addictive as nicotine. Nicotine is extremely addictive. I dont have any issues with caffeine. I think caffeine has a mild addiction rate. I stopped smoking pot a number if years ago and it took some time for me to lose the strong urge for it. Even now if i smell it i think how nice it would be to smoke just one. I think addiction with anything depends on the person. To the extreme one guy smokes some meth and finds he may or may not like it choosing not to smoak it again and another smokes it 1 time and hes hooked for life. I know they are world’s apart but ny point would be there is such a wide variety of people and just as wide range of effects it has one people. I dont have a problem with people smoking pot. I just know you and i may be able to use it responsibly but there is undoubtedly going to be those that make the poor decision to jump in a car and hurt themselfs and others. So it makes me nervous. We have enough troubles with drunk drivers. As for the research it beed ti be done. Hopefully its done in a fair manner. If not you can be sure it wont be the last time its done. Hopefully they cab find a standard that will determine if they are under the influence now verses use from so the night before. Currently its an officer making a judgment call. We need to take that personal judgment from them.

  • Common Cents

    CB1 receptors retract in the brain when saturated over a period of time, giving frequent cannabis users a “tolerance.” Since you can’t measure tolerance, you can’t measure intoxication.

    • just another loser

      Ok so what your saying is the more i smoke the more i need? Just like any drug addiction your body demands more. Booze has the same effect. Thus the need to drink more to get drunk. I dont have a problem with people that smoke pot. But what i have trouble with it potheads that want it legal for recreational use that try to mold and bend facts around to make their cause justified. Its a drug and with any drugs it affects people in negative ways. Booze affect people in a negative way. With the right regulations it can be used. But to pretend that that high you get from it dont harm yourself or others means your denying the truth.

      • Common Cents

        What I’m saying is there isn’t a scientific way to test for intoxication. I thought that was fairly clear.

        “Since you can’t measure tolerance, you can’t measure intoxication.”

  • Rachel

    I’ve always been curious as to if there’s a quantifiable way to measure THC in your blood like there is for blood alcohol content. I wonder how this will effect the law making process. Thank you for sharing this.