Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

May 26, 2013

Editorial: Court zaps 'zero tolerance'

Finally, some rare common sense has been injected into the medical marijuana debate in Michigan. And oddly enough, it has come from the Michigan Supreme Court, which has hardly been a defender of individual rights over the past decade or so.

In a Grand Traverse County case, the court effectively struck down a “zero tolerance” approach toward medical marijuana patients who drive with the drug in their system.

Perhaps more importantly, the court finally said the medical marijuana law gives patients real rights when it comes to complying with other laws and can even trump existing law.

Rodney Lee Koon, 51, has a medical medical marijuana registry card to address pain from two back surgeries. He was pulled over in 2010 by a Grand Traverse County sheriff’s deputy for speeding and told the deputy he had smoked marijuana about five hours earlier.

Koon was arrested and charged with operating while intoxicated after a blood test showed marijuana in his system. At the time, it was illegal under Michigan law for a driver to have any amount of marijuana in their system.

Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers ruled the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act provided Koon with protection from prosecution. His ruling was appealed by then-prosecutor Alan Schneider to the state court of appeals, which reversed Rogers’ decision.

That set the stage for last week’s ruling by the high court, which said the state’s medical marijuana act was clear that patients are protected as long as they don’t drive under the influence.

More to the point, the court said “The MMMA does not define what it means to be ‘under the influence,’ but the phrase clearly contemplates something more than having any amount of marijuana in one’s system and requires some effect on the person.”

That just reeks of common sense. Which is a good thing. Just as the system of laws that deal with alcohol intoxication and drunken driving depend largely on the amount of alcohol in someone’s system, some similar measure must be created to deal with pot for medical marijuana users.

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