Supreme Court could hear pot case - June 17, 2012 - Traverse City Record Eagle - http://record-eagle....d-hear-pot-case
BY ART BUKOWSKI email@example.com The Record Eagle
Sun Jun 17, 2012, 07:14 AM EDT
TRAVERSE CITY — Medical marijuana advocates hope the state's top court will hear a local man's case and overturn a ruling that makes it illegal for patients to drive with the drug in their system.
A group of downstate attorneys recently asked the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling in the case of Rodney Lee Koon, a Thompsonville medical marijuana patient arrested in 2010 and charged with operating under the influence of the drug.
The appeals court in April ruled Koon isn't protected from prosecution because the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act doesn't supersede a law that prevents drivers from operating with marijuana in their system.
The ruling effectively strips medical marijuana patients of their driving privileges, advocates contend.
"Because of the court of appeals ruling, the practical effect on qualifying patients is that they are left with having to choose between using their medicine and driving," Koon's attorneys wrote in their application to the Supreme Court. "The ruling of the court of appeals is in direct contravention of the law and cries out for redress from this court."
A person has the right to have their case heard by the court of appeals, but the Supreme Court decides which cases it will hear. Lansing attorney Mary Chartier — who along with four other downstate attorneys has taken on Koon's case — hopes the top court will bite.
The case has "such far-reaching implications," she said. It also would be a new topic for the court and has interesting aspects.
"This case has everything the Supreme Court is looking for when it decides to hear a case," she said.
On the local level, 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip E. Rodgers determined the medical marijuana act protected Koon from prosecution unless authorities could prove the drug impaired Koon. Grand Traverse Prosecutor Alan Schneider appealed Rodgers' ruling, and the appeals court said the act doesn't provide that protection.
Rodgers on Friday said he issued that ruling because of a provision in the medical marijuana act that indicates it should take precedence over any other laws it appears to contradict.
He also believes there are plenty of practical ways to determine if someone is impaired by marijuana or any other substance, even if there isn't an easily testable level of marijuana that legally constitutes impairment.
Rodgers is interested to see if the Supreme Court hears the case and how it might rule.
"It's an area that needs to be developed, and it would be extremely helpful if the Supreme Court were to hear it," he said.
Chartier said Rodgers' ruling was "extremely well-received and very thoughtful."
"It's not a crazy concept that the government should have to prove its case," she said. "If they believe someone is operating under the influence, they should have to prove it."
It could be several months before the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case.
Edited by Eric L. VanDussen, 17 June 2012 - 07:32 AM.