Drugged Driving: Michigan Supreme Overturns Itself—Driving With Pot Metabolites Not a Crime

The Michigan Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that it is not illegal to drive while having marijuana metabolites in the body, reversing a 2006 decision by a more conservative version of the court. Marijuana metabolites are not a controlled substance under state law, and their mere presence thus cannot be the basis of a conviction under the state's drugged driving law, the court held. The ruling came in People v. Feezel, in which the court overturned the conviction of a driver in the death of a severely drunk pedestrian walking in the middle of a five-lane road at night. The driver, George Feezel, was himself borderline intoxicated on alcohol, blowing a 0.009, and also tested positive for marijuana metabolites, which can linger in the system for days or weeks after the pot high is gone. Feezle was not convicted of drunk driving causing a death, but was found guilty of second-offense drunk driving, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and driving under the influence of marijuana, although there was no testimony to the effect that he had used marijuana that evening and there was testimony to the contrary. The court ruled that a Washtenaw County jury should have been allowed to hear evidence the victim was drunk, remanding the case back to circuit court. But in ruling that marijuana metabolites are not a controlled substance, the court invalidated what was in effect a per se zero tolerance drugged driving law that allowed for people to be convicted of driving while impaired when they were not actually shown to be impaired. "We hold that 11-carboxy-THC is not a schedule 1 controlled substance under MCL 333.7212 [controlled substances act] and, therefore, a person cannot be prosecuted under MCL 257.625(8) [drugged driving act] for operating a motor vehicle with any amount of 11-carboxy-THC in his or her system," read the opinion. The opinion, largely a demolition of the previous Supreme Court's 2006 ruling in People v. Derror that marijuana metabolites are a controlled substance, thus allowing for drugged driving convictions based solely on their presence, noted that Michigan is now a medical marijuana state and that allowing Derror to stand would unfairly impact medical marijuana patients. Under Derror, Justice Corrigan wrote for the majority, "individuals who use marijuana for medicinal purposes will be prohibited from driving long after the person is no longer impaired. Indeed, in this case, experts testified that, on average, the metabolite could remain in a person’s blood for 18 hours and in a person’s urine for up to 4 weeks." It's not just about medical marijuana patients, the opinion suggested: "Thus, under Derror, an individual who only has 11-carboxy-THC in his or her system is prohibited from driving and, at the whim of police and prosecutors, can be criminally responsible for choosing to do so even if the person has a minuscule amount of the substance in his or her system. Therefore, the Derror majority’s interpretation of the statute defies practicable workability given its tremendous potential for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement." It is neither fair nor just nor in the interest of public safety to charge people with drugged driving who aren’t impaired. Finally, there is a Michigan Supreme Court that recognizes that.
Location: 
Lansing, MI
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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An exceedingly ugly law has been shot down in Michigan

Now you will have to have been driving under the influence of a drug in Michigan to be guilty of the crime of driving under the influence of a drug.

This is great news

Finally some sense coming out of the Supreme Court. I live in Michigan so this is great news to hear.

Great News

I am so happy to hear this intelligent and logical approach from a supreme court.....way this start a wave across the country...amen

My name is George B. Feezel.

My name is George B. Feezel. I am the father of George E. Feezel, the subject of the Michigan Supreme Court decision. I thank you for your reporting.

I would ask that you correct one error in your report. My son was actually found not guilty of owi, causing death. He was found guilty of the lesser misdemeanor charge of owi, second offense, as stated in the legal opinion.

While that may seem small to you, accuracy is important to us, members of his family, who have been dealing with this nightmare now for 5 years.

Thank you,

George B. Feezel

psmith's picture

Fixing the error now.

Thanks for contacting us. I am fixing that error now.

FYI...

Your son, guilty or innocent has made some very poor decisions in his life.  This was not his first illegal act.   He will have to live with this...no sympathy from me !!!

 

Now that he's out of jail. Let him know to stay away and have no more contact with my daughter and I will stand down.

It makes me wonder - How

It makes me wonder - How will Director Gil K. react to this ruling?

And how this may conflict with the info presented in the recent story:
"White House 2010 National Drug Strategy Calls For Expansion Of Per Se 'Drugged' Driving Laws"
(http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=8187)
Which... from what I've read = mostly summaries, supposedly called for States to do exactly the opposite of what Michigan's SC decision just did?
I say/ask that because this portion of the strategy isn't explicitly 'spelled out' on the White House's "Briefing Room - Statements & Releases" page that announced the "New Strategy" = here -> (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/president-obama-releases-nati...)

The most Interesting reporting of this was on "Freedom Watch" (http://blog.norml.org/2010/05/28/norml-deputy-director-speaks-about-the-...) It's an amazing story, And I LOVE this Judge Napolitano!
It makes me wonder how many people at Fox realize this guy works for them?
Better yet, they're giving him a show, = "The latest word is that the first show will air at 10am Eastern on Saturday June 12th with rebroadcasts at 8pm that day and again on Sunday at 8pm and 11pm."
(http://freedomwatchonfox.com/2010/06/04/big-news-freedom-watch-w-judge-n...)
I never imagined I'd ever be excited about watching anything on Fox - well this is actually going to be on Fox Business Channel - which after some digging - I found out I do have it on my local digital cable service/

I'm not sure about whether this first show will be great or not, but I've seen several clips of this guy's webcast show over the last year or so (=roughly?), and He's by far THE single most reasonable, practical, sane, person I've heard on Fox in like... 15 yrs - maybe more.

"THE single most reasonable, practical, sane . . ."

That's because he is a libertarian and he is telling it the libertarian way! If you want a lot more of this reasonable, practical, sanity in our world, start voting for libertarians every time you see one on your ballot!

In fact, two recent comments on facebook that everyone should read and heed:
Matt Falter
So called "conservatives" acquiesce to big government and our march toward fascism so long as they have a war to keep them patriotic and an R in the White House.
So called "progressives" acquiesce to war and fascism so long as they get the big government they want and there's a D in the white house.
So called "moderates" accept all of these forms of government oppression.
Beyond rhetoric and other superficial BS, can you tell me the difference?
(You can quote me on that one)

and

Michael Robert Sawyer
This reminded me of a letter I wrote to a yahoo group years ago... Here it is:

I remember back in 2000 a loony leftist friend of mine was a big Ralph Nader supporter who ended up voting for Al Gore. I asked him why he voted for Gore and he said "I didn't want to throw away my vote." I sat him down and explained, a vote for the person who represents your views best is never a throw away vote. I believe, unlike so many talking heads I saw on the talkshows, Ralph Nader took the presidency away from Al Gore. I pointed out to him the more votes Nader gets the more left the democrats will become, which is what he really wants in the first place. Gore lost a vast leftist grass roots element to Nader by trying to move to the center, or to the right, and it hurt him.

If I had a dime, inflation you know, for every friend who said they believe in the Libertarians but "I don't want to throw away my vote" I'd be a millionaire. We Libertarians have beliefs that both Republicans and Democrats can embrace, some of the more radical ideas would be easier for them to propose if they knew they were believed in by more people...so...your vote tells them that you believe in those ideas. Just a small step in the right direction to be sure but at least we will make some progress. The major parties do look at vote totals and the more votes we have the better.

Just a thought, happy voting........

Even tho this latter advice was from years ago, it applies to all upcoming elections, too. Do NOT vote for the person just because you think s/he can win, or just because s/he has the right letter after his/her name! Instead, vote for the person who truly represents your ideals, whomever that might be, even if s/he is declared a "fringe" or "unelectable" candidate, especially in the primaries. Only by doing that will you get a government (or political party) that more represents the kind of government (or political party) you want.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

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