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How is marijuana tested for OWI charges?

Research has indicated that marijuana can help patients with debilitating conditions find relief. But when these patients need to get from point A to point B, is there a way for authorities to test the extent that the medical marijuana has impaired their ability to operate a vehicle safely?

Are there medical marijuana limits for driving?

The current answer is not really. Medical marijuana users can be issued an OWI in the same way that a driver over the age of 21 can be issued an OWI for drinking too much alcohol. The difference? Alcohol has a limit of 0.08 BAC, which can be accurately tested.

There is no legal limit for how intoxicated a medical marijuana user can be while driving. Even if there were a limit, it would still be tricky to test for.

In order for a medical marijuana user to be charged with an OWI, a prosecutor must prove that the amount of THC in the driver’s system was too high to operate the vehicle safely.

Types of testing

Marijuana stays in the bloodstream for a much shorter amount of time than alcohol, making most blood tests inaccurate.

On the other hand, when urine tests are conducted, marijuana that was used up to a month prior to the test may show up. These factors make it very difficult to determine if a medical marijuana patient was under the influence of marijuana at all while driving.

Even if these tests show that the patient has used marijuana, they do not show the extent of intoxication the driver was under while driving. Amounts of THC in the system may not directly correlate to the intoxication the person experienced due to differences in tolerance among users.

Michigan’s method of testing

Another type of test that can be used to detect the use of marijuana, opioids, meth, and other drugs is a saliva test. Five counties in Michigan – Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw – began their year-long trial of saliva-based OWI tests in November of 2017.

The test, which has been likened to a breathalyzer, cannot determine a level of intoxication or impairment. The test can simply demonstrate whether any of these substances have been used by the driver recently.

For this reason, the oral swab is not admissible as evidence in an OWI court case. Authorities are also still required to have reasonable suspicion that a driver is intoxicated in order to stop the driver for questioning. If the driver is arrested, a blood test taken at the station can be used as court evidence in an OWI case.

What happens if you are not a medical marijuana patient?

If you don’t have a medical marijuana card, you may be convicted for having any amount of marijuana in your system — even if the substance was not impairing your driving.

If you have are facing OWI charges, seeking the legal counsel of an attorney is the best way to secure your rights and explore all of your legal options. Criminal defense attorneys are well aware of the limitations that these tests have and can use this in combination with legal knowledge to build a strong defense strategy in your favor.

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