Koon Decision – Medical Marijuana Use Overrides 258.625(8), Operating with the Presence of Marijuana

The long awaited decision in People v Koon is finally here.  Once again, the Michigan Supreme Court reverses a Judge O’Connell opinion finding that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act overrides MCL 257.625(8), the statute prohibiting the operation of a vehicle with the presence of any controlled substance in the operator’s system.  Here is the Opinion:

Koon Opinion

Judgment of the Court of Appeals reversed, judgment of the Grand Traverse Circuit Court reinstated, and case remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

In a unanimous opinion per curiam, the Supreme Court, in lieu of granting leave to appeal and without oral argument, held:  Under the MMMA, a qualifying registered patient is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the act, provided that the patient possesses an amount of usable marijuana that does not exceed 2.5 ounces. The statutory definition of “medical use” includes internal possession. Therefore, the MMMA shields registered patients from prosecution for the internal possession of marijuana, provided that the patient does not otherwise possess more than 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. MCL 333.26427(b), however, provides a list of activities that are not protected by the MMMA, which includes driving while under the influence. Engaging in those activities removes a registered patient from the MMMA’s protection because the patient is no longer acting in accordance with the MMMA. 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. Thus, the MMMA’s protections extend to a registered patient who internally possesses marijuana while operating a vehicle unless the patient is under the influence of marijuana. The immunity from prosecution provided under the MMMA to a registered patient who drives with indications of marijuana in his or her system but is not otherwise under the influence of marijuana inescapably conflicts with MCL 257.625(8), which prohibits a person from driving with any amount of marijuana in her or system. Under the MMMA, all other acts and parts of acts inconsistent with the MMMA do not apply to the medical use of marijuana. Consequently, MCL 257.625(8) does not apply to the medical use of marijuana. The Court of Appeals incorrectly concluded that defendant could be convicted under MCL 257.625(8) without proof that he had acted in violation of the MMMA by operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.  Judgment of the Court of Appeals reversed, judgment of the Grand Traverse Circuit Court reinstated, and case remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

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