Macomb County Collision Shop Interviews Local Police Sergeant About Michigan Marijuana Laws
In late 2018 marijuana was legalized for adult recreational use in Michigan. This new law has many Metro Detroiters wondering how it will affect road safety. How does marijuana affect one’s driving ability? And is it even legal for someone under the influence of marijuana to get behind the wheel?
Our digital marketer from Pole Position Auto Body interviewed Sergeant Poole from Fraser Police Department to get some answers to these questions.
Sergeant Poole has 28 years experience with paramedics and 23 years as a police officer. Not only can Sergeant Poole speak personally to what he sees in Fraser, he also has information about what’s going on throughout the state of Michigan. This is because he is a certified DRE, a Drug Recognition Expert with specialized training in drug awareness and drug detection. There are only about 110 DRE trained officers in Michigan and this covers from the southern border to the Upper Peninsula, to both lakes.
Has There Been an Increase of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs?
Sergeant Poole explains that he is seeing a lot more drug impaired drivers on the road. He also indicates a shift between alcohol impaired drivers to more drug impaired drivers.
“As far as drug impaired driving, its highly increased. We are seeing a huge increase of drug impaired drivers.” Sergeant Poole said.
When asked if this was specific to marijuana use, Sergeant Poole continued,
“It’s all drugs but with marijuana being up now we are starting to see more marijuana, as well. But we are seeing a total switch with leaving alcohol and going towards drugs including pills, marijuana and stuff like that.”
He also explains that high schoolers are decreasing alcohol use and increasing marijuana use.
“When we were growing up a lot of kids drank beer, drank alcohol when we were in high school. That is switching and you are getting a lot of kids that don’t drink and a lot of them are smoking marijuana and that is their drug of choice, if you would. Really the alcohol use is on the decrease while drug use is on the increase. You are starting to see that with driving, as well. You are starting to see more people that are leaning towards the drugs and towards marijuana.”
How Does Marijuana Affect Driving Skills? Is it the Same as Alcohol?
Some people have the belief that marijuana is safer than drinking alcohol when it comes to controlling a vehicle. However, Sergeant Poole explains that both drugs are dangerous for driving because they slow your reaction time.
“Alcohol and marijuana both slow your reaction time down. It is proven and when you see someone under the influence of both you can see some similarities in their dexterities when you are testing them, as far as not being able to multi-task, which is what driving is all about. You’re applying your brakes, you are steering, you are looking in your mirrors, you are shifting if you have a manual transmission. So, you have a lot of different things going on and being impaired, whether it is alcohol or marijuana, it affects your ability to multi-task and when a police officer stops someone and runs them through dexterities, those dexterity tests are basically multi-tasking.”
“Most people should be able to do them without any problems but marijuana most definitely is just as bad as alcohol as far as being under the influence while driving. ” Said Sergeant Poole.
Sergeant Poole also expressed concerns that higher THC levels in marijuana may even make a small amount of marijuana more dangerous than a small amount of alcohol, for example one glass of wine.
“One of my bigger fears with marijuana is, like you and I can sit and have a beer or a glass of wine or something and we are not impaired, and you could get up and drive home. But if you and I were to sit down and smoke a marijuana joint we are impaired, I mean, that is the reason that you smoke marijuana is to have that impaired feeling.”
“And the marijuana has high THC levels now because there is no real restrictions on growing it. Go back to the 80s when it was completely illegal and you had to hide all your grow operations and hide buying your stuff to treat your grow operations, your THC level was relatively low, about three to four percent. Now, you have all the hydroponic stores on every corner basically, and you don’t have to hide your grow operations. The people who grow marijuana are able to take care of the crop better and make a much better product, if you would. So the higher THC reaches almost 30%, which is significantly higher than it was 20-30 years ago. ” Sergeant Poole explained.
Is it Legal to Have Marijuana in Your System While Driving?
Just because marijuana is legal for recreational use, doesn’t mean it’s legal to drive impaired. Similar to alcohol, it’s legal to purchase beer or wine, but it’s illegal to be over the limit. The only difference is that for marijuana there is zero tolerance for any THC to be in your blood while driving. If you are found driving under the influence of marijuana you will receive the same penalty as if you were drinking alcohol and tested above the .08 limit.
Sergeant Poole explains further,
“The law for operating under the influence of alcohol and the law for operating under the influence of drugs, and that includes marijuana, are the same. Meaning if you get charged for drunk driving or a drug driving it is still the same license sanction, the same penalties. It’s the same fines. Everything is the same. Now the second part of the question is your threshold. For alcohol, you know if you are drinking and I give you a breath test and if you blow over a certain limit you know you are automatically under arrest. We don’t have that for marijuana at this point in time. Marijuana is a penalty of the circumstances. It’s sort of a slippery slope really because it is illegal to have it in your system still federally and under Michigan law if you have any active THC in your body while you are driving you are impaired. You are over that limit.
If I give you a breath test and you are 0.08 you automatically go to jail. That is that limit. Under marijuana there isn’t a number like that. Michigan law says that any amount of active THC, which THC is the drug that is in marijuana, if it is in your system while you are driving you go to jail. You are guilty. The only exception to that comes from a court case, People vs. Koon that says that someone that is under the influence of medical marijuana and driving, the officer has to have the burden of proof to prove that they are actually impaired because of the active THC. ”
What Are the Signs that Another Driver is Impaired?
If you are trying to stay safe and avoid a collision with someone under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, Sergeant Poole explains what behavior to be on the lookout for.
“You are going to have your swerving. You’re going to have your slowing down and speeding up, running the red lights. It is a delayed response, especially with alcohol and marijuana, they are similar in nature. You are going to see someone swerving. It is going to be the same pretty much [as alcohol], long story short.
We are also seeing a lot of rear-end accidents. When you have someone under the influence of drugs for some reason they don’t like to stop. And when I say drugs, its marijuana, it’s pills, it is anything but alcohol. That seems to be very common that people don’t want to stop and rear-end a car and that is how we get a lot of our drug impaired drivers, is in the trunk of someone else’s car.”
Bottom Line: Avoid All Drugs and Alcohol When Driving
We would like to thank Sergeant Poole from Fraser Police Department for taking the time to answer our questions. We hope you learned something from the article about marijuana laws and most importantly how you should avoid operating any vehicles when you are under any type of drug influence.
With so many services like Lyft and Uber available to us today, there is not reason to jeopardize your life or any one else’s life you’re sharing the road with.
About Macomb County Collision Shop, Pole Position Auto Body
Pole Position Auto Body is a Warren auto body repair shop that has been serving the Metro Detroit area for over 29 years.
If you have a damaged or crashed vehicle, our highly qualified technicians will restore it to it’s pre-accident condition in the quickest turnaround time possible – almost 3 days quicker than the average repair facility.