In The News

In The News

Monday, July 18, 2022

A Journey of over 800 Miles to Talk with Fellow Lawyers About Marijuana and Driving

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Medical Marijuana

My message in Minnesota: marijuana is not like alcohol. It should not be treated the same as alcohol but it should be regulated smartly.

Who knew within weeks of my presentation to the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice (MSCJ) that the legislature in the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” would “accidentally” legalize certain marijuana. In Case You Missed It: the New York Times (among other sources) reported that the Minnesota legislature and governor, passed a law that made marijuana legal in many instances. Except that many of the lawmakers who voted for it said that they had no idea that it legalized marijuana.

I digress – I was invited by the MSCJ, via my friend Chuck Ramsay, to present on marijuana while driving issues. I am still in a semi-self-imposed hiatus on speaking although it really seems like less of a hiatus when I am scheduled for my THIRD speaking engagement of 2022 in September. I asked Chuck: “so is Minnesota recreational and you want tips on ‘how it’s going?” Chuck explained that in Minnesota, medical marijuana is approved as of 2014 but recreational is not yet approved, although it could be on the horizon.

I knew that I could certainly address the problems with signal-to-noise ratio in mass spectrometry and interpreting a response by the instrument as a peak when it is not a peak – stuff like that because I have done it and litigated it many times. However, I had forgotten how much research has been conducted to try to correlate a level of marijuana – and by that, I mean the presence of the psychoactive component of THC – with impairment. I reminded myself that there are at least 3 generally-read and at least to a degree, generally-respected sources of information: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); the American Automobile Club (AAA) and the Michigan impaired driving safety commission. All 3 report that no causation can be drawn between the presence of any amount of THC to any level and the negative effect on driving ability or increased probability of a crash.

The point of all of that reading and drafting power points and thinking and practicing to deliver this presentation is this: the more lawyers who are unafraid of going in front of a jury on an operating while intoxicated case, that involves a driver who is allegedly impaired or intoxicated because of the use of marijuana, the better it will be for all of us.

Prosecutors are slowly-but-surely learning that just because the person used marijuana, even fairly recently before driving – it does not mean that the person is impaired to be behind the wheel. The psychoactive component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) affects your brain, body and even your liver differently than alcohol. You may feel a mind or mood-altering affect but it does not mean – at least according to research – that you are any less safe to drive than an ordinary careful driver – let us say someone without about 3 cups of coffee on board. You feel differently, but you are just as safe to operate.

I had a great time in Minnesota. I was able to catch a Twins game; catch up with my son, who joined me on the trip and otherwise share and gain some knowledge. Thanks for having me, MSCJ!

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.