Key Points of This Article:
- Even though purchasing marijuana for recreational use is legal in Michigan, driving while high is not.
- Marijuana and other drugs contribute to nearly three million people injured in car accidents every year. As more states make recreation use of marijuana legal, authorities say the crash numbers are expected to grow.
- Michigan State Police say some drivers who are on pot or marijuana products are just as much a danger to other road users as those who use alcohol or even certain prescription medications.
- If involved in a Michigan car accident, some police are trained to suspect a driver who is impaired on drugs using sobriety tests similarly used to identify alcohol use.
8 Things You Need to Know About Driving High in Michigan
Similar to the growing economic trend in other U.S. states, Michigan residents over the age of 21 with a valid state ID or driver’s license can now purchase marijuana products for recreational use. And it’s expected that the industry could serve about 1.5 million people in the recreational market, according to initial estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The easier access and availability to the once illegal drug has left many to seek out the facts related to what you can and cannot do if using marijuana and driving.
- Any form of marijuana consumption, including edibles, is illegal while driving.
- It is illegal to smoke marijuana as a passenger in a car.
- It’s best to treat marijuana consumption like alcohol. So even if your car or truck is off, don’t smoke it or take it if behind the wheel.
- You can transport plants and marijuana products in your vehicle car, up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on your person.
- There is a law that addresses operating a vehicle under the influence with passengers under the age of 16 that still applies (MCL 257.625(7)).
- In 2019, some Michigan State Police began piloting a roadside device that tests saliva for marijuana intoxication in five counties.
- There is still no legal limit for marijuana intoxication in Michigan.
- Once any level of the active chemical in marijuana (THC) is detected in the bloodstream, authorities have the right to consider charges of driving under the influence.
It’s doubtful Michigan State Troopers are looking to target high drivers. Still, several have been trained on how to recognize ‘high on marijuana’ operators, especially in the event of a user being involved in a motor vehicle crash.
Michigan State Police Community Service Trooper Steve Kramer recently told ABC12 in a January 2020 news report that law enforcement looks at marijuana in the same way they do alcohol.
“If there’s a strong odor or recently burned marijuana in the vehicle, that could be a red flag. Same thing if we see an open bottle of alcohol in the vehicle. We’re going to start investigating and looking into that further,” stated Kramer. “If they can’t determine anything, we would call in a DRE, or drug recognition expert.”
Several counties have been piloting a roadside mouth swab program to help determine if marijuana is in a driver’s system or not, but much more will need to be done before an impairment screening standard is established.
Driving High vs Driving Drunk
Studies published by The American Journal on Addictions show both alcohol and marijuana use interfere with a driver’s reaction time and response to road emergencies. For example, the marijuana-impaired drivers examined had a harder time staying within a lane, were less likely to monitor their speed or operate at the limit, had an increased decision time when asked to pass and an increased time needed to brake when a light suddenly changes, increasing their chances for a rear-end collision. They also showed difficulty in recognizing certain sounds such as a car horn. Drunk drivers typically drive too fast, are unaware of other drivers and change lanes too quickly and make the choice to drive aggressively.
But when a low-dose of alcohol and low-dose drug are combined, impairment is much more dangerous than either used alone. The drivers crash more frequently into a sudden obstacle than those who were only on a low dose of marijuana.
Our conclusion: It is best to never drive after using any type of drug, legal or not, or any kind of alcohol.
Safe Driving Habits for Michigan Marijuana Users
Recreational marijuana users can prepare for safe driving with these drug-impaired operator tips created by the motor vehicle accident team at Steinberg Law Firm.
- Refrain from using drugs (and alcohol) before or while driving.
- Wait as long as it takes until you no longer feel the influence of marijuana to drive again. Some studies report it taking more than 3 hours for users to stop feeling the distracting and delayed effects.
- Keep any marijuana products you are transporting in a secure location in your vehicle, like a trunk, and ensure that products are sealed to avoid police suspicions in the event of a crash.
- Offer to be a designated driver to someone who uses drugs (or alcohol).
- If you feel impaired, use a ride-share service.
- Discuss the risks of drugged driving with family, teens and less experienced drivers, and their friends.
- Lead by example.
And remember, Michigan is a zero-tolerance state. This means drivers can be prosecuted for any amount of cocaine or Schedule 1 drug in their system. Schedule 1 controlled substances include LSD, peyote, ecstasy (MDMA), mushrooms, heroin, and marijuana.
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We understand that proving another driver’s wrongdoing due to their drug impairment can be difficult, but we have the required expertise in these types of crash investigations and remain highly successful in holding negligent drivers accountable for their actions.
If you have any questions, please call us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). Contacting us is free, and there are no fees or costs until we win your case.
Source: Sewell, R. A., Poling, J., & Sofuoglu, M. (2009). The effect of cannabis compared with alcohol on driving. The American Journal on Addictions, 18(3), 185–193. doi:10.1080/10550490902786934