Home > Uncategorized > Landmark Ruling for Michigan Medical Marijuana Patients

Landmark Ruling for Michigan Medical Marijuana Patients

This past Tuesday, in a landmark ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals decision in the case of People v. Rodney Koon.

The court’s decision resolves what had been a contentious legal issue regarding whether Michigan medical marijuana patients could be convicted with operating a motor vehicle by simply having the presence of marijuana in their system. 

In 2010, Rodney Koon was pulled over for driving 83 mph in a 55 mph zone. Prior to being arrested, Koon disclosed to the officer that he possessed a medical marijuana registry card and admitted to the use of marijuana 4 hours earlier. When a blood test revealed that there was active THC in his system, Mr. Koon was charged with violating MCL 257.625(8), which prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle with any amount of a schedule 1 controlled substance in the body. In Michigan, marijuana is a schedule 1 controlled substance.

While Michigan’s “zero tolerance” policy regarding schedule 1 controlled substances prohibits all drivers from having any presence of marijuana in their system, the state’s medical marijuana law shields registered patients from prosecution for the internal possession of marijuana. Koon contended that because he had the right to internally possess marijuana, he should be permitted to continue his everyday activities, so long as he wasn’t violating any other laws.

Originally charged in the 86th District Court, it was ruled that Koon’s registration under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) protected him from being prosecuted under MCL 257.625(8).  Affirming the district court’s decision, the Grand- Traverse Circuit Court also determined that the MMMA superseded the zero-tolerance provision of MCL 257.625(8). The prosecution later appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, who reversed the lower court rulings. Interpreting “under the influence” as a state pertaining to a person with any amount of marijuana in their body, the Court of Appeals noted that even the MMMA prohibited Medical Marijuana patients from driving while under the influence of marijuana.

Michigan v. Rodney Koon finally landed before the Michigan’s Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, Michigan’s highest court ruled that the immunity from prosecution provided by the MMMA to a registered patient who operates a vehicle with the presence of marijuana in his or her system but otherwise isn’t under the “influence of marijuana” conflicts with Michigan’s OWI statute.  What this means is that a medical marijuana patient may still be convicted of violating MCL 257.625(8), provided that the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the patient was operating “under the influence” of marijuana. Simply discovering the presence of marijuana in a patient’s system will no longer be a prima facie case of a MCL 256.625(8) violation. 

If you have been charged with OWI in Michigan involving marijuana, alcohol or any other controlled substance and you are in need of an honest and
hard-working defense attorney to represent you, contact The Leydorf Law Firm at any time by calling
(517) 388-6800.



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