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How Will the Legalization of Marijuana Impact Michigan's Operating While Intoxicated and Open Intoxicant Statutes?

Mark Mandell, Esq.

In November of this year, Michigan residents heading to the polls may have the opportunity to vote on the Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative. This measure legalizes the recreational use and possession of marijuana for persons 21 and older and imposes a tax on the sale of marijuana. Importantly, however, the initiative does not legalize operating a vehicle while using or under the influence of marijuana. In other words, Michigan's Operating While Intoxicated and Open Intoxicant statutes will apply to marijuana just as they do to alcohol.

Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have been successful in lowering rates of drinking and driving. However, the marijuana initiative raises a big question as to whether individuals using marijuana recreationally will also opt to order a ride in lieu of driving. While we are still learning about marijuana's effects on driving, a 2017 study in Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences found measurable cognitive impairments in the brains of cannabis users as compared to non-users. These impairments have a negative impact on motor learning, control, reaction time, and focus. Just as with alcohol, a limited reaction time and compromised motor skills present a higher risk of collisions on the road.

Individuals intending to use marijuana recreationally under the new law, if and when passed, need to be aware of the risks associated with using or driving under the influence of marijuana. Although police officers may not be able to use a roadside breath test for marijuana as they are with alcohol, officers may still impose traditional motor skills tests to screen for intoxication. In short, if you drive while using or under the influence of marijuana, you could be found guilty under Michigan's OWI or Open Intoxicant statutes.

One of the most important steps to avoiding legal trouble is education on the law. Please visit our website to learn more about the applicable laws and how the team at Fausone Bohn can help. If you are facing criminal charges, Mark Mandell is an experienced Metro Detroit defense attorney and a former prosecutor. Call Fausone Bohn, LLP today at (248) 468-4536, and find out how Mark and our other defense attorneys can help you.

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