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Driving High

Legalization or not, it's still a no-no.

by James Leonard

From the April, 2019 issue

The state ballot proposal legalizing marijuana won big in November, with 56 percent of the vote. How does that make the man who's been the public face of legalization here feel?

"Exultant," grins Chuck Ream, retired kindergarten teacher and former Scio Township trustee turned full-time cannabis advocate. "It's just the beginning. We want it open. We want it normalized in restaurants, nightclubs, coffee shops.

"That's going on the ballot in 2020," Ream says confidently. "No city on this earth is going to be ahead of Ann Arbor in terms of integrating cannabis into culture!"

What about buzzed folks driving home from restaurants, nightclubs, coffee shops, and tasting rooms? "You should not drive if you are just starting out using marijuana," Ream allows, "and if you are used to using marijuana, you have more cautious behavior while driving."

More cautious may not be enough."You still can't drive high," warns sheriff Jerry Clayton. And that's a growing problem. According to the Michigan State Police, in 2017, 131 drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for cannabinoid drugs-nearly twice as many as in 2013.

"Cannabis affects your ability to tell time," explains deputy Doug McMullen, one of the department's "drug recognition experts." If someone driving erratically seems high, they'll perform a test where "the person tilts their head back and stands with feet together and arms at their sides, and they have to estimate what thirty seconds is. Someone under the influence of marijuana oftentimes has trouble with that."

Failing that test gives probable cause for a blood draw, which is checked for THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. But since "Michigan doesn't have a legal limit for THC," McMullen emails, the legal standard is "impairment. An officer has to believe the driver is impaired in order to take the person into custody."     (end of article)

[Originally published in April, 2019.]

 



 
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