People v Koon

Michigan Supreme Court Opinion Interpreting Driving Under Influence of Marijuana


The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act [MMMA] provides certain immunity from prosecution for the "medical use" of marijuana by a proper card-carrying patient. The MMMA does not, however, allow a card-carrying patient to drive "under the influence" of marijuana.

While the Act includes "internal possession" [i.e. having just smoked some dope] within its definition of medical use, it proscribes driving under the influence, along with a list of other prohibited marijuana-related activities. The Act does not define driving under the influence of marijuana.

Competing with the MMMA is the "zero tolerance" provision contained in the Motor Vehicle Code. The prosecutor charged Rodney Koon under this provision, arguing in both the district and circuit courts that the presence of any THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, violates this provision and strips the availability of the MMMA from such a driver.

While the lower courts agreed with Defendant that he was immune from prosecution under the MMMA, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed.

In a unanimous, per curiam opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding: "while we need not set exact parameters of when a person is 'under the influence', we conclude that it contemplates something more than having any amount of marijuana in one's system and requires some effect on the person."

In ruling that the MMMA trumps the Motor Vehicle Code's "zero tolerance" for marijuana, the Court was troubled by the fact that the latter statute prohibits even an "infinitesimal" amount of marijuana in the driver's system, even when that infinitesimal amount has no influence on the driver.

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Published In: Criminal Law Updates, Health Updates

Reference Info:Decision | State, 6th Circuit, Michigan | United States