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Operating a vehicle or machinery under the influence of medical marijuana poses unique legal challenges in Michigan. Despite the legal status of medical marijuana, users can face serious charges if found operating vehicles or machinery while impaired. This complex intersection of medical authorization and public safety laws often leads to confusion and legal disputes. It’s important for anyone using medical marijuana and engaging in activities like driving or operating heavy machinery to understand the specifics of Michigan’s regulations.

Understanding Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Laws

Michigan’s medical marijuana laws permit registered patients to use cannabis for specific health conditions. However, the state strictly regulates activities such as driving under the influence of marijuana. It’s illegal to operate any motor vehicle, aircraft, motorboat, or any other motorized form of transport while under the influence of marijuana. Michigan has a zero-tolerance policy for driving with marijuana in one’s system. However, the 2013 case of People vs. Koon clarified that this prohibition does not apply to registered medical marijuana users unless they were found to be operating a vehicle while impaired by THC, meaning if it materially or substantially affected the way they were driving. Understanding these nuances is essential for legally navigating the use of medical marijuana in Michigan.

What Constitutes “Operating” Under the Influence?

“Operating” under the influence in Michigan encompasses more than just driving a car. Legally, it refers to controlling any motor vehicle, aircraft, motorboat, or other motorized machinery while impaired. This includes not only cars and trucks but also motorcycles, boats, and even construction equipment. The law considers someone “operating” if they have physical control over the vehicle, which can apply even if the vehicle is stationary but running. This broad definition aims to ensure public safety by addressing all possible scenarios where impaired operation could pose a risk.

Legal Implications of Operating Under the Influence

Operating under the influence of medical marijuana in Michigan carries significant legal implications. If found guilty, individuals face criminal charges that can result in fines, license suspension, and even jail time. A first offense might lead to a misdemeanor charge with penalties including up to 93 days in jail, a $100 to$500 fine, and a six-month license suspension. Subsequent offenses incur harsher penalties, potentially including felony charges. Beyond legal penalties, a conviction can have long-term consequences, such as increased insurance rates and a criminal record. These implications underscore the seriousness of operating any vehicle or machinery while under the influence of marijuana, despite its medical legality.

Potential Defenses for Medical Marijuana Users

Medical marijuana users facing charges of operating under the influence have several potential defenses to consider:

  • Lack of Impairment: Demonstrating that despite THC presence, there was no actual impairment affecting the ability to operate a vehicle or machinery.
  • Invalid Traffic Stop: Contesting the legality of the traffic stop or vehicle search that led to the charges.
  • Improper Police Conduct: Arguing that the officers involved violated your rights during the stop or arrest.
  • Medical Condition Defense: Demonstrating that a medical condition, not marijuana use, caused the observed impairment.

Our Attorneys Can Help If You’ve Been Charged with Operating Under the Influence

At Federal Criminal Attorneys of Michigan, we understand the complexities of operating under the influence of medical marijuana charges. Our experienced team can protect your rights and provide a strong defense tailored to your situation. If you’re facing such charges, contact us today for a consultation, and let us help you navigate the legal challenges ahead.

About the Author
Led by Sanford Schulman, the Federal Criminal Attorneys of Michigan bring to each client over three decades of experience and many ‘not guilty’ verdicts. With your life, livelihood, and that of your family on the line, you don’t just deserve a team that goes to bat for you on a daily basis; you absolutely need one. Our attorneys spare no effort, skill, or determination in serving defendants and their families. We strive to provide an unparalleled level of commitment and ability to your case—precisely when you need it most.