Marijuana legalization will increase ‘drugged driving’ offenses, officials say.

November 14, 2018

Marijuana legalization will increase ‘drugged driving’ offenses, officials say.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART – A big concern for local law enforcement officials with the recent state-wide passage of Proposal 1, which legalizes marijuana for recreational use, is that more people are going to get behind the wheel when they are high.

Operating under the influence of drugs (OUID) cases are handled in the same manner as drunk driving cases.

Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon

Both are misdemeanors punishable by up to 93 days in jail for a first offense and one year for second offense. A third-offense conviction is a felony punishable up to five years in prison.

If a driver is pulled over by a police officer for suspected drugged driving, a search warrant is issued for a blood draw at the nearest hospital. The suspect is transported by police to the hospital and then placed under arrest and jailed. The officer has probable cause* or reasonable suspicion to place the suspect under arrest, said Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon.

Results from blood draws presently take about a month, but with the expected increase due to marijuana legalization, the length of time for results is also expected to rise.

Marijuana legalization was accepted statewide with 57 percent of voters approving it, Nov. 6. In Oceana County, it failed by 400 votes with 5,576 voting “no” and 5,176 voting “yes.”

Although it’s been approved, it still isn’t legal right now. The State

Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast

Board of Canvassers has to certify the results, and then the legislation is approved 10 days later, Bizon explained. It’s expected to be finalized some time in the Dec. 6-20 time frame.

Pending marijuana cases are being dealt with on a “case-by-case basis,” Bizon said. “We need to see how it compares to when it was legislated and determine if the interests of justice warrant moving forward.”

When the proposal passed last week, there were no marijuana offenders lodged in the Oceana County Jail, said Sheriff Craig Mast. There are very few criminal cases in Oceana County that involve marijuana, Bizon said. “Most of the district court cases are drunk driving and domestic violence,” he said.

Marijuana cases make up about 5-10 percent of the caseload in 78th District Court, said Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chad DeRouin.

Oceana County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chad DeRouin

In addition to drugged driving, another “collateral issue” with the legalization of marijuana will be thefts, Bizon predicts. With each person over the age of 21 allowed to grow 12 plants, there will be many plants for thieves to steal. That is one of the reasons the law specifies that plants must be concealed.

The law also specifies that pot smokers cannot smoke in public. Those who violate that rule could end up in jail.

Marijuana users are allowed to carry 2.5 ounces on them and possess 10 ounces at home. Michigan allows the highest possession amount of any state, Bizon said. “It’s an enormous amount of what is allowed.”

Only those age 21 and older will legally be able to possess, and underage users will be cited for minor in possession.

“LARA (Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) has two years to enact promulgated rules for commercial growth and distribution,” Bizon said. “There is a lot that is not clear.”

“A lot of these details need to be worked out,” Mast said. “There are bridges to be crossed.”

Individual communities are presumed to be “in” as far as commercial sales of recreational marijuana. Each community has to approve an “opt out” declaration to prevent marijuana dispensaries from locating in their town.

Although it will be legal in Michigan, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. “The federal government could choose to prosecute any marijuana case,” said Bizon. “There’s always that risk.”

The prosecutor said he is not surprised the proposal passed. “The people have spoken, and now we must deal with the effects.”

*”Under the Fourth Amendment, probable cause – which amounts to more than a bare suspicion but less than evidence that would justify a conviction – must be shown before an arrest warrant or search warrant may be issued,” according to Black’s Law Dictionary.

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