By Rudy Serra
Q: I USE MEDICAL MARIJUANA, and I’ve heard about some changes coming in the law, including roadside drug tests. What should I know?
Answer: There are multiple changes in marijuana laws going into effect in Michigan. The Department of Licensing now has a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. The Department recently conducted a half-day seminar at Cobo Hall for marijuana producers, to familiarize them with the state’s new electronic regulation system, METRC.
Growers and others will soon be required to have an account with METRC that tracks everything from moisture loss to the number of plants and identity of each individual plant. Plants will be individually tagged with a bar code and tracked throughout the process, including having manifests with bar codes for each plant that a transporter moves from one place to another.
METRC is a comprehensive system already used in other states. The state will realize huge profits from medical marijuana production. If I were a betting person, I would put my money on Michigan legalizing recreation marijuana by ballot initiative within the next few years.
Another change allows the police to use a road-side “mouth swab” to test drivers for drugs. This program is being implemented now in Berrien, Kent, Washtenaw, Delta and St. Clair County. Authorities want to use it statewide after the five-county “pilot program”. The test is designed to detect marijuana, methamphetmine, cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines. The test can detect the presence of one of the target drugs, but it cannot prove “impairment.” Whether the test is scientifically reliable has not yet been proven in court.
The new law does not change the constitutional requirement that the police have some reason to pull a driver over. The State Police have designated a number of specially-trained officers as “Drug Recognition Experts,” and deployed them in the pilot counties. The new law does not change the constitutional requirement that the police have probable cause to request testing. In other words, they still need some objective evidence of impairment.
The law authorizing the new drug test makes refusal a civil infraction. Refusing to take a road-side saliva drug test is not a crime. You may have to pay fines.
If you agree to the test and it reports that you have a target drug in your system, then you can face much more serious criminal penalties. If a person uses medical marijuana or other prescribed medication that could show-up on the test, declining to take the test may be the better course of action. The consequences of refusal are not as serious as the consequences of a criminal conviction for impaired driving.
JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. We welcome questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.